I am often on my knees asking for those things that I feel I need and want. I am often praying for guidance. I am often looking for peace, or inspiration. Aren’t we all? I am often on my knees because that’s where I’m supposed to be. I’m more frequently on my knees (these days) because I know nowhere else to go to get the power, comfort, peace and reassurance I need. Indeed, there is nowhere else to go…in my experience.

Efficiency is something I like. I’m great at cleaning and organizing quickly because I’m efficient. I know how to see all that needs to be done and find ways to organize and clean in an order that saves time while also accomplishing a great deal at a high quality. I can be detail oriented when I need to be, but I never get lost in details.

Prayer is something I have worked long and hard to be efficient at. Not efficient as in praying as fast as I can, in as few words, with the most impact, like I’m running a business, or organizing files. No, efficient as in getting the power and guidance out of prayer that I need. Getting out of my own way, so to speak. Praying in a way that works. Not simply spouting words or expecting God to read my mind (which I know He can do). And, by focusing on how to make my prayers matter TO ME, I find that I offer them better and with more effect, granting me expediency…or the ability to get those things I so desperately seek.

I hope I’m saying this right. There are many ways to accomplish things in life. But, there are better ways, and best ways. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to, metaphorically speaking, eliminate the fluff, and get to a point where my prayers hopefully have maximum efficiency in helping me to increase my relationship with God and my ability to call down the powers of heaven to gain peace, guidance, inspiration, and assurance on my path through this life.

One of the ways I have found that I’ve been able to improve upon this (because I’m in no way perfect at prayer) is to understand and utilize the power of expediency.

Expedient

Several times in the Doctrine and Covenants, an entire book of revelation given based on expediency, we see the word expedient used to define what should be asked for in prayer and/or what things will be manifested unto us by the Holy Ghost (Doctrine and Covenants 18:18; 88:64-65).

Expedient = what is advantageous, practical, beneficial, useful

The scriptures are full of counsel regarding prayer. There are some important elements: addressing God—the Father, expressing gratitude, seeking forgiveness of sins, praying over anything in our lives that we need help with, asking for grace, praying for others, etc., and closing in the name of Jesus Christ—our Mediator.

However, when it comes to getting specific answers from God to our prayers, there are guidelines that are given. However, it hasn’t been until very recently that I have begun to understand, to a better extent, all the guidelines and examples of expedient prayers given in the scriptures and what they mean for me. And, more importantly, how to use them to receive the answers I seek.

What NOT to Ask For

In the scriptures, God has told us in many ways expedientthings we are not supposed to ask for. We are to not ask for things that are not expedient (Doctrine and Covenants 88:5). We are not to ask for signs for proof, or to create faith or testimony (Doctrine and Covenants 63:7-12). We are commanded not to ask for things to consume upon our lusts (James 4:3). We are not to seek for revenge upon our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We are not to pray for riches, except that we may use what riches we receive to build up the kingdom of God (Jacob 2:19), etc.

So, we can talk to God about everything. But, we must take into consideration some important guidelines when it comes to what blessings we seek at God’s hand. Asking God to do a back flip just to satisfy our curiosity about his mobility is hardly a proper thing to ask of the Almighty. We must be mindful of what we pray for, ask for, and seek for from our Father in Heaven.

So, what are those guidelines for asking?

While there are many scriptures that point to these guidelines, I’m going to boil it down to a few.

James 1:5

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not and it shall be given him.

What are we commanded to ask for? Wisdom.

Note that God uses the word “wisdom.” He doesn’t say information. He doesn’t say fun facts. He says wisdom. Wisdom is far different than information and fun facts.

Wisdom = experience, knowledge, good judgment, intelligence, common sense; as well as the ability to apply such to our lives. Wisdom also refers to general societal knowledge and principles.

So, when God says, “If you lack wisdom,” He means that you don’t have the wisdom/intelligence you need to act wisely.

James 1:6

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

Note that God says to, “ask in faith, nothing wavering.” We also often receive the counsel from God to ask, “with real intent,” or in “sincerity of heart” or with “full purpose of heart” (Moroni 7:9; 10:4, 2 Nephi 31:13). I believe these are all similar in meaning, in that God means us to pray with the intent to listen and to follow. If we seek answers or instruction or guidance, He wants us to know He won’t give us wisdom if we have no intent to act upon it (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33; Matthew 7:6). He only gives light and truth to those who will receive it, act on it, and seek for more (Alma 12:9-11).Man praying

How are we commanded to ask for wisdom? With the sincere intent to act upon the wisdom we hope to receive.

Joseph Smith-History 1:18

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join.

Alma 22:18

O God Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.

In these two scriptures it’s important to pay attention to what the individuals are praying for. Joseph asks to know which church is true that he may know which to join. The King of the Lamanites wants to God to manifest unto him if He exists, that he may give away all his sins to know Him and live with Him.

Herein lies the answer to expediency. Both want simple answers that they may know how to act so that they may progress spiritually—for themselves.

We know that God’s work and glory is to bring about our immortality (living forever) and eternal life (life like God and with God) (Moses 1:39). If that is God’s most important and eternal work, then, it would seem that those things that are expedient for us are those endowments of knowledge and wisdom that will lead us (if we listen and follow it) to live with and become like God.

What wisdom are we supposed to seek? The wisdom that will lead us forward in God’s plan toward becoming like Him.

Doctrine and Covenants 9:6-10

Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.

Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right…

Now, if you have known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now.

This scripture was given for Oliver Cowdery who was told he could help translate the Book of Mormon. But, once he was told he could help he expected all the wisdom and guidance from the Spirit he needed would simply come. Poof. He took no thought for the effort required to receive the wisdom and guidance he needed.

A modern equivalent of the mistake Oliver Cowdery made is to get a calling to teach Sunday school at church. And then, simply because you were called and set apart you didn’t think it was necessary to prepare your lessons, pray for guidance before each lesson, and then to follow that guidance in preparing and delivering your lesson. The calling didn’t exempt you from the effort to do the calling the Lord called you to do.

It’s like getting the validation that God is okay with whom you choose to marry. But, simply because you got married in the temple you expect that everything will be celestial without actually living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in your daily married life–simply because God said, OK. Nothing in this life, or in eternity, is simply handed to us without accompanying effort and responsibility to care for the gift received. All godly guidance requires effort to receive and effort to follow.

Woman hands praying with a bible in a dark over wooden table

How are we to seek for the wisdom we lack? We are to do our part to get what wisdom we can before going to the Lord for either validation or further guidance. We are never “done” getting personal revelation until we have become godly.

Now, let’s set forth the specific pattern we’ve identified for getting answers to our prayers.

Pattern #1: You’ve got to work

Brigham young taught, “It is only where experience fails that revelation is needed” (BY, 416). I might alter that to say, “where wisdom fails.”

If the information is reasonably available to us through sincere efforts of searching, seeking, discussion with wise friends and family members, and pondering, God isn’t going to give a separate answer. God is loving but I suspect a perfect being is also perfectly efficient and not prone to ridiculous acts simply because we come to Him crying. As well, when we put ourselves into a climate of seeking, pondering, discussing, and searching, there is no limit to the answers God can give us about many things. So, to just dispense one sentence phrases or even short paragraphs anytime we have a question is not only inefficient and contrary to God’s nature, it deprives us of the further light and knowledge God has for us on many topics. A truly loving God will choose the more helpful, expedient, and valuable of the two ways to answering our prayers.

Pattern #2: Expediency*

As God’s 24/7 goal (if you want to put it in mortal time constraints) is to save and exalt us and help us become godly (Moses 1:39). It would stand therefore, that though all questions are good, the best questions are those that are derived from the deepest, simplest desires of our hearts.

*I want to make a brief comment about lines of revelation. God has set up His church to have accepted lines of revelation so that we know when something is from God, or not. God is a god of order, and not confusion (Doctrine and Covenants 132:8). Revelation for the entire church comes through the prophet. Revelation for the region comes through the designated Seventy. Revelation for our stake comes through the Stake President. Revelation for our ward comes through the Bishop. Revelation for the Relief Society comes through the Relief Society President, etc.

Revelation for our lives comes to us. As well, in personal lives there are also smaller, but distinct lines of communication. Parents can only get so much guidance for their children. The older children become the less revelation a parent can receive on behalf of a child. A parent may receive inspiration to caution a child about something. But, if child receives a spiritual witness that a parent has not also received it means that the child is capable of getting his/her own revelation and that God doesn’t need to cycle that revelation through the parent. Etc.

So, expediency may also relate to questions we ask that are not for ourselves. Even if the wisdom will comfort us, but it is ultimately wisdom intended for a line of authority which we are not in; then we are not likely to get such wisdom, especially if we cannot act on it for our own, personal salvation.

Pattern #3: Real Intent

Finally, we must have the true intent to act upon the wisdom we receive. If we want facts to satisfy fears and doubts, but we have no intent to do anything based on the counsel or guidance that comes, we are very unlikely to get much, if anything.

Example of the Expedient Pattern:

If we look at Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in Joseph Smith-History; we learn that prior to going to the sacred grove to ask which church to join, Joseph attended all the several meetings of the many churches in his area. All focused on different points of doctrine. All interpreted the Bible differently. We know Joseph got to know many of the pastors well. We know he conversed with them and asked them questions on their varied doctrines. We also know Joseph studied the scriptures looking for guidance as to what church to join. He searched and pondered and studied. He did all the seeking he could. HE WORKED

Then, when the wisdom of society, the scriptures, and his own failed, then he went to ask of God.

JOSEPH ASKED AN EXPEDIENT QUESTION. Which church should I join?

JOSEPH ASKED WITH REAL INTENT. Joseph asked with the intent to join whatever church God told him to join. He simply wanted to know which one was God’s.

Note, he didn’t ask God, “Is the Methodist church better than the Presbyterian?” He didn’t ask, “Why are there so many churches?” He didn’t ask, “The Bible says there’s one faith and one baptism. Why then do all the churches have so many different ways of baptizing?” None of these are bad questions. They simply don’t have the greatest expediency.

Joseph’s question was expedient because the answer would allow Joseph to progress toward godliness and salvation.

Questions that are generally not expedient

Based on these patterns, let’s look at questions that are generally not expedient. These are unlikely to get answered because the answer doesn’t necessary lead to personal action or progression.

  • What color was the Liahona?
  • When will the second coming of Christ be?
  • How come you let the prophet put this new policy in place that seems so unlike you?
  • Why can’t women also officiate in the Priesthood?
  • Why did you let me lose my job?
  • Why did you let that terrible catastrophe happen?
  • Was the earth really created in five earth days or is what science says correct?
  • Did you use evolution to create all life?

Now, let’s look take these un-expedient questions down to their core. Let’s look at the deeper, simpler questions that are behind them that are expedient. The answers to these questions require pre-work and also will lead to personal action and progression.

Questions that are more expedient**

  • I have read the Book of Mormon and find much good in it. Is the Book of Mormon Woman Sitting Down in Prayer Silhouettetrue? Is it your word?
  • I’m trying to live a good life, but I know I’m not ready to see Christ. So, what is the most important thing I can be doing right now to prepare for the second coming of Christ?
  • I am trying to accept and follow the prophet’s counsel in all things. But I’m struggling with this most current policy. Can you please reassure me. Is <current prophet> a true prophet?
  • I’ve been studying the scriptures and have found several passages that indicate your love for all your children. But, I’m still struggling to feel peace about it in relation to how the church is set up. Can you reassure me? Can you help me to know that you love women as much as you do men?
  • I’ve lost my job. I’ve looked at several jobs and have applied to the ones I feel will best help me take care of my family. Is the course my life is taking according to Thy will? Will I be able to find the job you want me to have?
  • Science makes it seem like the earth coming into being was random and took eons (implies study). I don’t know how to reconcile that with what the Bible says (implies study). Perhaps there is much missing from both the scientific and the Bible accounts. So, can you please reassure me? Did you create the earth?
  • Am I really your literal spirit son or daughter? Or am I just a product of evolution? I need to know so that I can feel confident in the course of action I’m choosing for my life. If you’re real and I’m your child, then that will change the decision I make.

**Note that the answer to any of these questions requires previous personal action and study and that the answer will lead to continued personal action and eternal progression.

We can be upset or confused about many things in life. But, that which is of most value for us to do is to break down those frustrations we have to their core doctrine, their deepest simplest root, and then take that question to the Lord rather than the more complex and less expedient questions we often have.

It is important to note, however, that the Lord can answer any question we put to Him. There are occasions when He has answered what, according to the formula I have presented, are less expedient questions. When He has done so and why is beyond my ability to confer to you. But, from my own study and experience, I have felt that, in general, we are likely to get answers more quickly and more clearly if we seek to make our questions and requests expedient.

Why doesn’t God tell us everything? Why doesn’t He speak the answer to every issue and question we have in our minds and hearts? I don’t know. But, as I am confident in his “true love” for us, I believe that the problem is not His limitation in answering, but ours in desiring the best knowledge and understanding how to receive those expedient answers.

Our finite understanding, perspective, and capabilities make it impossible for us to converse with the Lord as we would likely wish. There is much the Lord can tell us if our hearts and minds are right and prepared. But, He has chosen to reveal only those things that are expedient for our eternal progression.

So, we can get upset that God doesn’t tell us everything. OR, we can follow the pattern He has set for getting answers to prayers.

BT

Doctrine: Expediency has everything to do with getting consistent answers to our prayers. The scriptures lay out a pattern for asking expedient questions and receiving answers. God is not limited in His ability to talk to us, but we are limited in our ability to hear His voice and understand His ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Doctrine: There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. ~George MacDonald~

I have written before about “true love.” If you haven’t read those blogs you can certainly read this one and be fine without the others. But, if you’re interested in the prior, please click here.

True Love and How to Get It: Part Three

I was reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis this week (for probably the third or fourth time) and was particularly impacted, on this particular read-through by chapter 11. It might be easy to get confused by the title of this book without knowing what it’s about. The title however was chosen as an antithesis to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake. C.S. Lewis’s title is a play on Blake’s title and makes the point that no such marriage is possible. That in fact, at some point in all of our lives (and in God’s over-arching plan) there will be nothing less than a final great divorce between heaven and hell.

George MacDonald, Lewis’s primary inspiratory and muse said:

No, there is no escape. There is no heaven with a little of hell in it—no plan to retain this or that of the devil in our hearts or pockets. Out Satan must go, every hair and feather.

And, it is upon this that I will begin my thoughts.

True love IS heaven. God IS love. And, not only is He the definition of love and the embodiment of love, but He is the teacher, author, and example of perfect, true love. We cannot even begin to conceive of true love without loving its Author.

So, taking George MacDonald’s words, we might make any number of translations using the word love.

  • There is no true love with a little of selfishness in it…
  • There is no true love with a little lust in it…
  • There is no true love with a little illegality in it…
  • There is no true love with a little immorality in it…

And so on.

As selfishness, lust, criminality, and immorality (among other things) are all pieces of hell, we cannot ever expect to find true romantic love, true motherly love, true fatherly love, true friendship love, etc., if we are determined to arrive at and achieve such with a “little of hell,” in whatever type of form it may take in our particular lives.

Society would argue that all love is good. And, perhaps they might be right, in a manner of speaking. But, I would correct them by saying, “All love starts out good, but it may not end up good;” and George MacDonald and Lewis would, I believe, back me up. And my reasoning is that because God is the source of true enduring love (of all kinds), any exercise of love that does not lead us to love Him and convert us to follow Him, is essentially polluted. Polluted love is love that is attempting to be true while also fettered with a bit of hell. And as such, that polluted love cannot last. It cannot endure, and it will in fact eventually be shaken by some hellish variable. Polluted love cannot achieve a fullness because it loses power when is ceases to lead us to the source of true love—God. It ceases, in fact, to be love at all and begin to be a form of eventual hell.

Moroni 7:13-14 instructs us very clearly:

…that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every [love] which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

Alma 41:10 reminds us that, “wickedness never was happiness.”

Doctrine and Covenants 132:5, 13-14

For all who will have a blessing, [or love], at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing [or love], and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.

And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.

For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed.

True love is, in other words, the only real love; and anything else becomes merely a temporary state of mind. Which, because of its temporary-ness and lack of “real-ness” is why it is eventually lost or corrupted and becomes hellish. This descent into hellishness may take minutes or years, but it will happen, if it is not real and true.

George MacDonald, as C.S. Lewis’s Teacher, in The Great Divorce says:

Hell is a state of mine-ye never said a truer word.  And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind-is in the end, Hell.  But Heaven is not a state of mind.  Heaven is a reality itself.  All that is fully real is Heavenly.  For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.

vintage image of a mother and daughter wearing rollers in their hair and having a good time

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis observes a ghost who is visiting sort of a place between heaven and hell. It’s like a ghost on a “holiday from hell.” This ghost is a woman, who in her mortal life lost a son to death. And, her idea of motherly love (in both life and now in death) has ended up being an obsessive, selfish love. She, who believes she has loved truly, is deceived in her ideas of true love.

In this in-between place, a messenger of sorts, a Bright Person, comes to teach her so that if she is willing to re-educate herself on what true love is and accept it, she can go on to heaven and be with her son again.

ONE OF the most painful meetings we witnessed was between a woman’s Ghost and a Bright Spirit who had apparently been her brother. They must have met only a moment before we ran across them, for the Ghost was just saying in a tone of unconcealed disappointment, “Oh … Reginald! It’s you, is it?”

“Yes, dear,” said the Spirit. “I know you expected someone else. Can you … I hope you can be a little glad to see even me; for the present.”

“I did think Michael would have come,” said the Ghost; and then, almost fiercely, “He is here, of course?”

“He’s there-far up in the mountains.”

“Why hasn’t he come to meet me? Didn’t he know?”

“My dear (don’t worry, it will all come right presently) it wouldn’t have done. Not yet. He wouldn’t be able to see or hear you as you are at present. You’d be totally invisible to Michael. But we’ll soon build you up.”

“I should have thought if you can see me, my own son could!”

“It doesn’t always happen like that. You see, I have specialised in this sort of work.”

“Oh, it’s work, is it?” snapped the Ghost. Then, after a pause, “Well. When am I going to be allowed to see him?”

“There’s no question of being allowed, Pam. As soon as it’s possible for him to see you, of course he will. You need to be thickened up a bit.”

“How?” said the Ghost. The monosyllable was hard and a little threatening.

“I’m afraid the first step is a hard one,” said the Spirit. “But after that you’ll go on like a house on fire. You will become solid enough for Michael to perceive you when you learn to want someone else besides Michael. I don’t say ‘more than Michael,’ not as a beginning. That will come later. It’s only the little germ of a desire for God that we need to start the process.”

“Oh, you mean religion and all that sort of thing? This is hardly the moment… and from you, of all people. Well, never mind. I’ll do whatever’s necessary. What do you want me to do? Come on. The sooner I begin it, the sooner they’ll let me see my boy. I’m quite ready.”

“But, Pam, do think! Don’t you see you are not beginning at all as long as you are in that state of mind? You’re treating God only as a means to Michael. But the whole thickening treatment consists in learning to want God for His own sake.”

It’s interesting to note the point the Bright Person makes. Love for anyone should lead us to love God “for His own sake.” True love is not to love God as a means only to get to love the people we want to be with. True love is to love God first. Then, and only then, can our love for others become unselfish, chaste, legal (in both the mortal and eternal sense), and eternal.

We so often cast off our love of God in an attempt to save our relationships with others, only to find that they never flourish. Some relationships may die, initially, when we decide to love God first. But, we will find that in the long run, they will rekindle or transform into something far greater than the quality of relationship/love we initially tried to save—by casting God aside.

The account continues:

“You wouldn’t talk like that if you were a Mother.”

“You mean, if I were only a mother. But there is no such thing as being only a mother. You exist as Michael’s mother only because you first exist as God’s creature. That relation is older and closer. No, listen, Pam! He also loves. He also has suffered. He also has waited a long time.”

“If He loved me He’d let me see my boy. If He loved me why did He take away Michael from me? I wasn’t going to say anything about that. But it’s pretty hard to forgive, you know.”

“But He had to take Michael away. Partly for Michael’s sake. . . .”

“I’m sure I did my best to make Michael happy. I gave up my whole life….”

“Human beings can’t make one another really happy for long. And secondly, for your sake. He wanted your merely instinctive love for your child (tigresses share that, you know!) to turn into something better. He wanted you to love Michael as He understands love. You cannot love a fellow-creature fully till you love God. Sometimes this conversion can be done while the instinctive love is still gratified. But there was, it seems, no chance of that in your case. The instinct was uncontrolled and fierce and monomaniac. (Ask your daughter, or your husband. Ask your own mother. You haven’t once thought of her.) The only remedy was to take away its object. It was a case for surgery. When that first kind of love was thwarted, then there was just a chance that in the loneliness, in the silence, something else might begin to grow.”

“This is all nonsense-cruel and wicked nonsense. What right have you to say things like that about Mother-love? It is the highest and holiest feeling in human nature.”

Pam, Pam-no natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.

“My love for Michael would never have gone bad. Not if we’d lived together for millions of years.”

“You are mistaken. And you must know. Haven’t you met-down there-mothers who have their sons with them, in Hell? Does their love make them happy?”

“If you mean people like the Guthrie woman and her dreadful Bobby, of course not. I hope you’re not suggesting. … If I had Michael I’d be perfectly happy, even in that town. I wouldn’t be always talking about him till everyone hated the sound of his name, which is what Winifred Guthrie does about her brat. I wouldn’t quarrel with people for not taking enough notice of him and then be furiously jealous if they did. I wouldn’t go about whining and complaining that he wasn’t nice to me. Because, of course, he would be nice. Don’t you dare to suggest that Michael could ever become like the Guthrie boy. There are some things I won’t stand.”

What you have seen in the Guthries is what natural affection turns to in the end if it will not be converted.”

“It’s a lie. A wicked, cruel lie. How could anyone love their son more than I did? Haven’t I lived only for his memory all these years?”

“That was rather a mistake, Pam. In your heart of hearts you know it was.”

“What was a mistake?”

“All that ten years’ ritual of grief. Keeping his room exactly as he’d left it: keeping anniversaries: refusing to leave that house though Dick and Muriel were both wretched there.”

“Of course they didn’t care. I know that. I soon learned to expect no real sympathy from them.”

“You’re wrong. No man ever felt his son’s death more than Dick. Not many girls loved their brothers better than Muriel. It wasn’t against Michael they revolted: it was against you-against having their whole life dominated by the tyranny of the past: and not really even Michael’s past, but your past.”

“You are heartless. Everyone is heartless. The past was all I had.”

“It was all you chose to have. It was the wrong way to deal with a sorrow. It was Egyptian-like embalming a dead body.”

“Oh, of course. I’m wrong. Everything I say or do is wrong, according to you.”

“But of course!” said the Spirit, shining with love and mirth so that my eyes were dazzled. “That’s what we all find when we reach this country. We’ve all been wrong! That’s the great joke. There’s no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living.”

It’s again interesting to see Pam trying to prove her true love by her obsessive actions. And yet, her actions showed her lack of love toward her husband and daughter. She obsessed about her lost son, Michael. Obsession is not love. It is destructive to both the obsessor and the object of the obsession. Both die under its influence. It leads a person to make an idol of the obsessed which they place before God and never reach Him, or the love of Him at all.

The account continues:

“How dare you laugh about it? Give me my boy. Do you hear? I don’t care about all your rules and regulations. I don’t believe in a God who keeps mother and son apart. I believe in a God of Love. No one has a right to come between me and my son. Not even God. Tell Him that to His face. I want my boy, and I mean to have him. He is mine, do you understand? Mine, mine, mine, for ever and ever.”

“He will be, Pam. Everything will be yours. God himself will be yours. But not that way. Nothing can be yours by nature.”

“What? Not my own son, born out of my own body?”

“And where is your own body now? Didn’t you know that Nature draws to an end? Look! The sun is coming, over the mountains there: it will be up any moment now.”

“Michael is mine.”

“How yours? You didn’t make him. Nature made him to grow in your body without your will. Even against your will . . . you sometimes forget that you didn’t intend to have a baby then at all. Michael was originally an Accident.”

“Who told you that?” said the Ghost: and then, recovering itself, “It’s a lie. It’s not true. And it’s no business of yours. I hate your religion and I hate and despise your God. I believe in a God of Love.”

“And yet, Pam, you have no love at this moment for your own mother or for me.”

“Oh, I see! That’s the trouble, is it? Really, Reginald! The idea of your being hurt because . . .”

“Lord love you!” said the Spirit with a great laugh. “You needn’t bother about that! Don’t you know that you can’t hurt anyone in this country?” The Ghost was silent and open-mouthed for a moment; more wilted, I thought, by this reassurance than by anything else that had been said.

Pam’s (the Ghost’s) next tactic is to make God the problem by saying He isn’t a god of love if He doesn’t let her have Michael on her terms. Because He’s IS love, she feels God shouldn’t have terms for the eternal relationship with her son that she so desires. She forgets of course that her kind of love is not true and thus would only continue to drive away those she so desires to have. Such love cannot, and will not ever be, a part of heaven. Only by submitting to God’s terms of love, true love, could Pam ever even begin to hope to have her loved ones, especially Michael, forever.

We so often do this in our lives. We demand God allow us to love whom and how we wish on our terms which may, or may not, be very close to His terms. Then, when such relationships struggle we either blame the other person or God. We rarely take the time to look at ourselves and evaluate the terms upon which we were trying to retain the love we sought. We rarely see where we were determined to keep a little hell in our heaven.

The account continues with Lewis having a discussion with his Teacher (George MacDonald) about this discussion between Pam (the Ghost) and her Bright Person (her brother Reginald):

“Come. We will go a bit further,” said my Teacher, laying his hand on my arm.

“Why did you bring me away, Sir?” said I when we had passed out of earshot of this unhappy Ghost.

“It might take a long while, that conversation,” said my Teacher. “And ye have heard enough to see what the choice is.”

“Is there any hope for her, Sir?”

“Aye, there’s some. What she calls her love for her son has turned into a poor, prickly, astringent sort of thing. But there’s still a wee spark of something that’s not just her self in it. That might be blown into a flame.”

“Then some natural feelings are really better than others-I mean, are a better starting-point for the real thing?”

“Better and worse. There’s something in natural affection which will lead it on to eternal love more easily than natural appetite could be led on. But there’s also something in it which makes it easier to stop at the natural level and mistake it for the heavenly. Brass is mistaken for gold more easily than clay is. And if it finally refuses conversion its corruption will be worse than the corruption of what ye call the lower passions. It is a stronger angel, and therefore, when it falls, a fiercer devil.

“I don’t know that I dare repeat this on Earth, Sir,” said I. “They’d say I was inhuman: they’d say I believed in total depravity: they’d say I was attacking the best and the holiest things. They’d call me . . .”

“It might do you no harm if they did,” said he with (I really thought) a twinkle in his eye.

“But could one dare-could one have the face-to go to a bereaved mother, in her misery -when one’s not bereaved oneself? . . .”

“No, no. Son, that’s no office of yours. You’re not a good enough man for that. When your own heart’s been broken it will be time for you to think of talking. But someone must say in general what’s been unsaid among you this many a vear: that love, as mortals understand the word, isn’t enough. Every natural love will rise again and live forever in this country: but none will rise again until it has been buried.”

“The saying is almost too hard for us.”

“Ah, but it’s cruel not to say it. They that know have grown afraid to speak. That is why sorrows that used to purify now only fester.”

“Keats was wrong, then, when he said he was certain of the holiness of the heart’s affections.”

“I doubt if he knew clearly what he meant. But you and I must be clear. There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It’s not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels. The false religion of lust is baser than the false religion of mother-love or patriotism or art: but lust is less likely to be made into a religion.

This part, where Lewis is pondering and evaluating what he saw (between Pam, the Ghost, and Reginald, her Bright Person) with help from his Teacher, is very interesting. Where we all might be want to condemn lust above misguided natural loves, MacDonald shows that, the higher a natural love the easier we find it to justify as true, or pure. How many people justify away their chastity by the high nature of being in love because it is, often, such a high level of natural affection. And yet, by itself is it not true or pure once it goes on for its own sake instead of for God’s sake.

MacDonald says, very clearly that it is difficult to justify lust and call it godly, or make a religion out of it. And, even today with lust being more acceptable, I don’t think anyone still dares call it “godly,” though they may worship it, to an extent. But, today we dare to call fornication (of all kinds and between all genders) and adultery forms of true love, as if following one’s heart or seemingly innate/natural attraction is what makes something pure or true. That we often feel high forms of love is certain, but ultimately, if we pursue them selfishly, illegally, lustfully, or immorally, they cannot be true, and they will not last. They will be shaken.

Pam (the Ghost) loved selfishly and obsessively. Thus, her “love,” which she felt was true, was not. And, it did not lead to peace, joy, or a love of God (much less an increased love for the rest of her family). Pam was miserable in life and her love never resembled charity, or even self-sacrifice. It was always obsession and resentful longing, and even, I suspect, manipulative pity or a spiritual temper tantrum. Thus, by its fruits, it was clear that it was not true love. And, it could not endure. Pam could not have Michael “forever,” if she insisted on persisting in that type of false love. The requirement to “have Michael,” was that she first learn to love God so that her love for Michael might be purified and perfected.

The same goes for all kinds of love: romantic, familial, friend, etc. If it does not lead us to love God first, then it ultimately will fail and will not endure. And, if we do not come to love God more than anyone else, then we will never be able to love those around us (in any type of relationship) as we could, and should, in the long run. And thus, it will not endure.

It is not coincidence then that the first and great commandment is to love God (Matthew 22:37-38); because then, and only then, can we learn to love our neighbor, spouse, father, mother, children, friends, and others as ourselves.

Note: I highly recommend reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Not only is it incredibly short, not only is it a religious classic, but it will open your eyes and provide ample opportunity for you to be taught from on high on more matters than true love.

BT

Doctrine: The law of opposition requires that true joy comes only in response to true sacrifice. Getting something easy only makes it less valuable, less meaningful, and less powerful. Sin and righteousness are both very hard. The only difference between them is that sin seems easier up front but ends up being exponentially harder in the long run (entropic), whereas rightness seems harder up front but ends up being exponentially easier in the long run.

I get really frustrated with people who, over the years, have basically made the assumption that living righteously comes easy to me. I get frustrated, because when they make this assumption, they do it in the awestruck/pity context of saying that they would be righteous too if it came easier to them. They act like I’m some anomaly because I consistently try to be righteous (and healthy), and simultaneously resent me because I manage to keep going despite trials, stress, setbacks, and troubles.

Not only is their assumption semi-insulting, it’s also a reflection of their lack of common sense and reason. These people are basically saying the following to me:

IF something is easy, I’ll do it. IF something is hard, I won’t do it. Lucky for you that being righteous comes easy for you. I wish it came easy for me, because I’d want to do it if it was easy for me like it is for you.

These people are also basically saying to me:

Being unrighteous (or doing what I want despite commandments or sound advice) is easy, and that’s why I do it. So, instead of asking me to get stronger or work harder, I just wish God would make it all easier.

Now, I’m fairly certain these people don’t actually believe that the hardness or easiness of a thing is the whole reason for doing it. I don’t really think that they take the “path of least resistance” in everything in their lives. But, they seem to take this point-of-view when it comes to hard things, like keeping the commandments or getting healthy. They don’t want to admit to themselves that the real underlying problem is that they don’t want to keep the commandments or get healthy because they are not yet personally convinced that the effort to do such things is worth it to give up the perceived value of the things they will have to sacrifice. In other words, they don’t think effort and sacrifice = true happiness.

red ant rolls stone uphill

Now, here’s the doctrine:

Both unrighteousness and righteousness are extremely hard. The only difference in the two is that righteousness is harder up front and exponentially more rewarding  and joy-producing in the long-run; and unrighteousness is easier up front and exponentially less rewarding and misery-producing in the long run. Which, if you do the mental math means that unrighteousness is actually far more difficult because you’ll eventually have to do things the righteous way anyway, which will still be hard, initially when you finally get to it. In the long run, unrighteousness is non-sustainable. Righteousness is sustainable.

Unrighteousness is natural entropy (defined: natural decline into disorder or large-scale collapse). It will, if pursued continually, turn one’s (spiritual or physical) life into a living hell. On the other hand, righteousness is natural improvement, increase, or a natural rise. It will, if pursued continually, turn one’s (spiritual or physical) life into a living joy.

Righteousness is initial and up-front sacrifice of something we consider of temporary value (perhaps even extreme temporary value) for something of lasting and eternal value.

Sin is holding onto things of temporary value and ultimately sacrificing things of lasting and eternal value. (Or, in other words, sin is trying to get the lasting and eternal value of something in a way that cannot produce it.) [Makes sinning sound pretty stupid.]

C.S. Lewis says this in his book The Great Divorce:

That is what mortals misunderstand.  They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into glory.  And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin.  Both processes begin even before death.  The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness.  And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,” and the Lost “we were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.

Here are some scriptures about peace, joy, and lasting feelings that come after initial, upfront, and early hard work and sacrifice:

  • That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7)
  • …wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith (Ether 12:7)
  • And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! (Alma 36:20)
  • And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statues, and the commandments of the Lord in all things…we did sow seed…and we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of all kinds…And I did teach my people to build buildings and to work…And I, Nephi, did build a temple…I, Nephi did cause my people to be industrious and to labor with their hands… And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness. (2 Nephi 5:27)
  • For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad, [happiness nor misery, sense nor insensibility]. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one… (2 Nephi 2:11, brackets moved up from later in verse)
  • And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit… Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of our faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you. (Alma 32:37, 43)

Hard construction work

I could list volumes of scriptures. But, I wouldn’t want to deny each of you the joy that comes from discovering them yourself. But, the underlying doctrine regarding reaping true peace, joy, and fruit (i.e. lasting results) is sacrifice and hard work. It is NOT sitting around and waiting for something to become easy or easier. It is NOT waiting until the consequences of sin compel you to choose sacrifice. In order to get lasting joy and peace we must get stronger, not wait for things to get easier.

A lot of people wait until they are deep in the throes of depression, abuse, addiction, bankruptcy, incarceration, or other entropic ends before they consider living life the harder way (up front). The better, true, lasting way. Yet, in their current entropic/fallen state, they have nearly doubled the level of starting difficulty into their mental, spiritual, or physical health turnaround. Their choice is no longer simply about doing one or the other. It’s choosing the initially better, harder option, at last, while still dealing with the entropic consequences and aftermath of choosing the initially easier, worse option in the past. And, whether or not they are able to make the leap into “living after the manner of happiness,” they most likely will live with the extra weight of the consequences from their past unwise choices, for the rest of their life.

There is no “something for nothing” principle in all of the universe. Every choice has a consequence. It’s eternal law. No matter how we may fight it, we simply will never be able to get anything of value (and hold onto it lastingly) without considerable effort. [Which is worth it!]

There is no relationship, of any kind, that will magically last without significant, concerted effort. There is no career path or education that will magically fall into our laps without significant, concerted effort. There is no health or happiness of any kind that we can truly grab hold of without hard work and sacrifice. And, if we ever choose to sidestep into getting something that we want through lazy, faddish, shameful, or dishonest means, by the laws of entropy (since dishonesty is an entropic decision) that something will eventually be taken back away from us. We will lose it (Helaman 13:30-36).

Or, if we do not lose something by natural, entropic laws, we will cast it away ourselves because it has no value to us.

I’m not sure if the statistic is true. But, a lot of business articles out there claim that 70% of lottery winners (or people who get a big monetary windfall—implying that they didn’t have to lift a finger to get it) end up broke within five years. And the reason they end up broke is because the money has no meaning to them. Why does it have no meaning? Because they gave it none.

Determination concept

Things we have not worked for we are not prepared to receive. We haven’t thought about them. We haven’t pondered them. We haven’t planned for them. We haven’t done anything. Thus, we are not equipped to appreciate them or value them. And, because they came with no effort we part with them (or blow them in the case of spiritual, emotional, mental, or physical currency) with the same amount of thought—none.

Whether we like to hear it or not, nothing in life has meaning or value or power to bring us joy if we don’t give it meaning, value, and power by our blood, sweat, and tears. Our action in the pursuit of something is what gives that something meaning, value, and the power to grant us satisfaction—and lasting joy.

You don’t have to believe this. But, I guarantee that whether or not you put in the work to test it, you’ll eventually find that it’s true.

BT

Doctrine: If you are fundamentally uncomfortable in life, then you are not growing up to be what you should be. You are doing the opposite, refusing to mature spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.

I read a post by a FB friend the other day titled, “10 Uncomfortable Signs You’re Actually Becoming the Person You’re Supposed To Be,” and it taught so many incorrect principles and doctrines that I felt compelled to do my own version. It is, in fact, the most depressing post I have read, of late, and I’m surprised that anyone would read it and feel “OK” about it, or would think that it is in any way something they should actually believe. IT IS NOT.

To show you just how “ick” it is, here is a comparison of the subtitles in that blog post versus those in this blog post.

That Blog Post Subtitles This Blog Post’s Subtitles
You do everything by yourself and you feel isolated from others You do many things by yourself and you know when to ask for help
You realize that you have some issues with yourself You recognize your weaknesses
You have a strong desire to cut off some unnecessary relationships You seek those relationships which help you become more like God, and you begin to see others as God sees them
It’s hard for you to trust people You have learned to trust God above all else
You always feel that your life is boring You recognize that life is meant to help you become like God
You are too familiar with the feeling of sadness You recognize the purpose of opposition and trial and are learning how to channel it into growth and personal refinement
You always feel like you’re running out of time You have learned to use time wisely and focus your time on the things that really matter
You regret the mistakes you’ve made in the past You have embraced your past mistakes and have used them to learn, grow, and become better
You always miss childhood, family, and your loved ones You embrace the time of life you’re in, and do not take for granted the family and loved ones you have
You feel lost, confused, and anxious about your future You take advantage of the direction of the Holy Spirit and find peace in your present and future

It’s sad to me how little the world understands true happiness. They think us religious types are missing out on all the fun. But I have yet to find one person who ignores God’s plan (to any extent) to be any happier or full of peace than I am. They simply can’t be. They are always nursing insecurity, fear, anger, resentment, pride, and the like.

Why?

Because the only true happiness and joy that can ever be found comes from God’s plan for us to become like Him. He is the author of the plan that brought us here to earth in the first place. We accepted that plan. We run on “God’s light” whether we recognize it or not. And, the only way to get more of that light (than the bare minimum) is to follow His plan. As C.S. Lewis said:

God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.

To the extent we follow His plan is the extent of light and happiness and peace we can access.

And, as long as all, a part, or even small pieces, of our life is in noncompliance with God’s plan we will to greater or lesser extents feel… isolated, full of issues, a desire to shun people, a lack of trust in God and others, that life is consistently falling short of what we wanted (boring), that there is more sadness than peace and joy, that there isn’t enough time to accomplish all we think we want to do to gain the happiness we seek, that our past mistakes have robbed us of future joys, that we can’t connect with our family and loved ones like we did when we were younger (more innocent and pure), and that our life is a mess that we aren’t sure where it’s going.

So, now I’m going to mirror the paragraphs written in that article with my own.

10 Comfortable Signs You’re Actually Becoming the Person You’re Supposed To Be

You do many things by yourself and you know when to ask for help

Contrary to what most people think, maturity is not doing everything by yourself. Maturity is humility, meekness, responsibility, and accountability. When you are mature, you take responsibility for yourself. You don’t have to be micromanaged into taking care of yourself. You own up to mistakes, repent when you mess up, make reparation for injuries to others, and proactively seek to be the best person you can by following God’s plan. You do these godly, grown-up things without having to be told. Are you perfect? No, but you know you’re trying and that gives you a comfortable feeling of confidence before God and your fellow men.

Is this type of maturity difficult? Does it require hard work? Does it require sincerity and humility? Yes. But, the discomfort and isolation and misery that comes with failing to do these things is far more uncomfortable. The confidence and peace that comes from embracing this kind of personal betterment and refinement is far more peaceful and comfortable.

You recognize your weaknesses

Let’s get to the bottom of weakness. By simply being mortal we are weak. We have to recognize that. And mortal weakness allows many trials into our lives that are simply part of mortality. This includes: sickness, infirmity, genetic problems, our ability to die, psychological issues, and so forth.

Once we recognize that most weakness simply comes from being mortal and stop taking it personally, it’s easier to own those weaknesses and act proactively to make them strengths. I spent years thinking I would never get the chance to be a biological mother. So, I didn’t toss the idea of motherhood aside as weakness, or something, I would never get the other side of. I studied, prayed, and worked to become the best “velveteen mother” I could. I embraced the principles of motherhood and became one despite being childless. Etc.

Weakness doesn’t have to “disturb our well-being.” It can, in fact, create well-being equivalent to the following:

…And I feel like Paul, to glory in tribulation; for this day hath the God of my Fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth… (Doctrine and Covenants 127:2).

You seek those relationships which help you become more like God, and you begin to see others as God sees them

Yes, as we age, we do often find that few people are those that will be by our sides for the entirety of our lives. Or, that we want them as close as they have been in the past. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we seek to cut them out of our lives completely. Obviously, there are a few types of people that do need to be “cut off.” But, in general, maturity should help us understand how to honestly see people how God sees them.

So, if we have a few toxic relationships in our lives, we need to love them, but we don’t have to trust them. Thus, we accept them for who they are, but we don’t allow them to manipulate our lives. We decide what is right and then do it. If they, in consequence of our newfound confidence and centeredness throw a fit and cut themselves off, then that is their choice. But, I think in rare instances (which do present themselves, unfortunately) do we actually have to send people out of our lives.

As we become godly, better, and more of what we know we should be, we will naturally gravitate toward those people that support that lifestyle and share our deep values. And, we should invite those from our past to join us. If they don’t, then that is their choice. But, when possible, as we see them and acquaint with them (since they don’t feel comfortable around us anymore), we should continually love them and try to bring them with us. Christ shunned none. But, He didn’t pretend that their way of life (if sinful) was okay. He always invited them to improve, learn, grow, and change. He said, “Come follow me,” and those that followed, followed. Those that went away, went away of their own volition.

You have learned to trust God above all else

People are imperfect. Even the best ones, to whom we will claim loyalty, can, and will hurt us and cause us disappointments—for various reasons. To live life with the acceptance that you can’t trust anyone is a horrible way to live. It is far better to accept that you, and everyone else, is mortal. Then, place your trust, devotion, and loyalty to the one being who can be trusted—eternally.

Those who have a firm faith and trust in God (despite the ups and downs) have more joy, peace, and confidence than anyone I know. They weather life’s storms with incredible grace. They seem to have unearthly strength and an unshakeable quality. And…that’s because they do have unearthly strength. They place their highest trust in God and His power, peace, comfort, and guidance is their reward. They fear no one, can love all, and don’t have to suffer the depth of continued disappointment that others suffer, for, “[they] know in whom they have trusted” (2 Nephi 4:19, 34).

You recognize that life is meant to help you become like God

The opposing subtitle in that article was about “you feel that your life is boring.” I thought this was the most useless section provided. It talked about becoming accustomed to the monotony of responsibility and lack of drama in your life.

Life, boring? How can life be boring? Oh, I know…if you have no eternal purpose or ultimate goal.

Sure, short term goals can motivate us and keep us “excited” and “busy” and “occupied” for a minute. But, we will always be bemoaning our current state and seeking for our next educational degree, trip, work promotion, money drop, etc. if we continue to ignore the ultimate goal and purpose of our life. There are no boring down times when your ultimate goal and purpose is to become like God. Every moment of every day presents opportunities for learning, growth, eternal advancement, self-evaluation, gratitude, personal change, service to others, etc.

Our purpose isn’t to just get a college degree. Our purpose isn’t just to find a livelihood and then use the money to seek for temporary thrills. Our purpose is to use all of our talents, gifts, education, trips, activities, and so forth, to bring ourselves and others to Christ and to become like Him. All of life is boring and loses meaning when you remove from it its primary purpose. That’s because you’ve taken away the diploma and rendered all the “classes” as important solely for their individual content and not for how that content should vault you upward toward godhood.

When you know where life is leading you and the purpose of all within it, it can’t get boring. Why? Because everything within it becomes deep, powerful, gains meaning, and eternal reality. It’s impossible to get bored with that. Overwhelmed a bit? Sure. But not bored.

Boredom is uncomfortable because it is the direct result of a lack of purpose. Eternal purpose may breed hard work and result in the need to make personal changes, but it breeds the comfort of purpose and peace. Both are priceless feelings.

You recognize the purpose of opposition and trial and are learning how to channel it into growth and personal refinement

We are all familiar with sadness. And, even to the godly it can be debilitating. Depression strikes all (god-fearing or not). But for those with confidence and trust in the purpose of sadness, it doesn’t long overwhelm or dominate their lives. It is nearly always accompanied by a deep hope.

I love the recent movie, Inside Out. This movie teaches us that sadness is nearly always the precursor to happiness. If we are familiar with sadness, then we should also be familiar with happiness. No down is ever long without an up. In fact, it is the downs which enable us to appreciate the ups. Those who go long periods of time with all ups and no downs, take their ups for granted. They’re spoiled and thus have no true joy, only entitlement.

Eve wisely said, “Were it not for our transgression (and accompanying confession, repentance, and covenant with God) we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11).

Sadness is often triggered by the feeling of pain, whether physical, emotional, or psychological. Sadness and regret often accompany sin and guilt. Sadness alerts other people to our struggles and jump starts the hope for help.

If we are too familiar with sadness and do not have enough opposing happiness, it may be because we are not making use of the sadness we feel to change, embrace help, and accept the happiness that can come to us. All of us were created to have joy (2 Nephi 2:25). If we cannot access it, it is not because it is not offered to us, it’s because we aren’t proactively using our sadness to enact the change, or accept the help, that will provide the happiness and peace we seek.

Beautiful Hispanic Woman Sleeping.

You have learned to use time wisely and to focus your time on the things that really matter

If you are running around with your head cut off and you never seem to have the time you need for the things that really matter, the answer is NOT that you are growing up and becoming who you were meant to be (as that article states). The problem is that you don’t focus your time on the things that really matter.

Latter-day Saints pay tithing. We don’t do it because God needs our money. We don’t have a paid ministry so our preachers don’t get it. The Church does use the money to build temples, chapels, print religious materials, etc. We have offerings for other more specific uses. But, ultimately, we don’t pay tithing to keep the Church running.

Why then do we pay tithing? Because it teaches us an important godly principle: to put the things that matter most first in our lives.

God should come first in our lives. He doesn’t need our money, it’s already His. But, He asks us to pay tithing with the money He has given us to teach us about our own hearts. If we can learn to pay 10% to God before doing anything else, then the principle of putting God first will begin to trickle down into our lives and prioritize it.

God first, family next, spiritual and physical self-sufficiency, then building up God’s kingdom (of which we desire to a part), then the rest.

If our lives are played out by what is truly important than we will have few, if any, regrets. We will sacrifice what we think we want for what is most important and find that we still have time for all the rest.

There is an object lesson commonly used to teach this principle. It is a jar in which you place three things: large rocks, small rocks, and sand. If you put the sand in first, then the pebbles, you will not ever be able to cram in the large rocks. However, if you put in the large rocks first, then the pebbles, and then the sand, miraculously you are able to fit it ALL in.

The order in which we choose to live our lives DOES make a difference. So, if we are unsettled, regretful, and always in a state of wishful thinking, wishing we had more time for the things that matter; it’s because we haven’t yet learned to mature and prioritize. Thus, we have constant misery, resentful-longing and regret.

If, we follow the “tithing principle” and put the things that matter first, we will have peace and comfort in our lives because the things that really matter are always getting taken care of.  People always tackle the pebbles and sand of life first because they live in fear of missing out. Then, they feel regret for the large rocks. As we lose the fear of missing out and tackle the rocks first, we will find peace in realizing the pebbles and rocks don’t matter so much and that in comparison they have not actually given us the fulfillment we thought they would.

You have embraced your past mistakes and have used them to learn grow, and become better

Those who actually learn from their mistakes and use them as catapults to vault them into a better way of life can never truly regret those mistakes. Few actually would be willing to take them back. Why? Because those mistakes enacted a fundamental change in their very being. It made them who they are.

Yes, we can regret the hurt we caused. Yes, we regret the offense against God. But, ultimately, if we truly repent and change because of those mistakes and sins, then they become blessings (in retrospect) rather than curses. They don’t haunt us or define us. They contribute to our capacity for understanding and compassion for others. They contribute to the strength of our personal testimony as we testify to others—who have current similar sins and struggles—that they can overcome!

In this light, our past mistakes become points of power, experience, and teachers of godly truth. This kind of perspective reflects our understand and appreciate for God’s grace, through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We know no matter our sins we can still become like God! That breeds peace, comfort, and confidence in the presence of God and our fellow men—not discomfort.

You embrace the time of life you’re in, and do not take for granted the family and loved ones you have

The paragraph in that article was incredibly depressing. “Growing up sucks,” it said. Ugh. Regret is the response to guilt from omission, transgression, and sin.

On the other hand, parting with a “time of life” can be sad, to an extent, but it should not be looked back on with regretful or resentful longing. It should be what I would call “bittersweet.” In other words, we are leaving something behind that was great, but we are also embracing the greatness that is to come.

Those who live life looking backward, or with unresolved guilt, are always going to be full of misery, sadness, and depression. Those who live life looking forward, who appreciate the journey and not just the destinations, who repent and make efforts to change, who appreciate what they learn from each stage, do not live with regret. They do not think “life sucks,” or that “growing up sucks.” For them, because they live and learn, life only gets better as time goes on.

The people who think that “growing up sucks,” tend to be those that don’t know what true joy or is where it can be found. They tend to be those that sin and do not repent. They tend to be those who don’t learn from their past. Thus, they regret the loss of each unfulfilling and fleeting happiness that ends because they think that is all the happiness that can be found.

You take advantage of the direction of the Holy Spirit and find peace in your present and your future

People who embrace God’s plan, and the blessings and guidance He offers within it, never are overly anxious about their future. Do they have worries? Sure. Do they have uncertainties from time to time. Yes. But, not the deep anxiety and life insecurity referred to by that article.

How can they live with so much surety? Because they have confidence in their standing before God. Thus, they have ultimate trust that He will guide their paths and lead them in the path that will help them become like Him. The initial stresses of job losses, life changes, trials, major illnesses, and many other calamities are all easily swallowed up in their understanding of God’s plan. They have an eternal perspective. They have made and kept covenants with God that assure them on an eternal scale (such as the sealing covenant).

Thus, no short-term mortal uncertainties can ultimately ruffle them. This is because they know that God is in charge and will remove the burden (if that’s His will), make a way for them to bear it (if it’s His will that they carry it), and turn that uncertainty into renewed and strengthened faith and trust when His blessings are poured out upon them.

Conclusion

To put it bluntly. If life is uncomfortable to you, fundamentally, then you are actually NOT growing up to become as you should be. Though life is darn hard, it can be full of peace and comfort. I know that to be true 100%. If you don’t know it, then perhaps it’s time to consider doing what you need to do grow up to be as you should be—like God—and to find true comfort and peace.

BT

Doctrine: Tradition, in the church, leads us to summarize important gospel doctrines and principles into trite phrases (subject to misinterpretation) and high-level diagrams (that fail miserably as eternal cliff’s notes). Thus, the rising generation can’t understand the deep and essential truths of the gospel and are easily led astray because of “tradition.”

In the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 26:1, we read:

Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin…and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.

This scripture is so accurate in its description of why the rising generation could not understand the prophets words and why they did not believe “the tradition” of their fathers. Such misunderstandings were related to “tradition.” And it is happening again today.

Tradition, in the church, leads us to summarize important gospel doctrines and principles into trite phrases (subject to misinterpretation) and high-level diagrams (that fail miserably as eternal cliff’s notes). Thus, the rising generation can’t understand the deep and essential truths of the gospel and are easily led astray because of “tradition.”

It is of some of these trite phrases, high-level conversations and diagrams, and generalizations that I’m blogging about today; and for today it all relates to the subject of the pre-mortal life (i.e. scripturally called “the foundations of the earth”).

Pre-Mortality

Pre-mortality. We often completely summarize it by calling it the war in heaven. We often make it out to be this obvious black and white choice. And yet, a third of the hosts (our spiritual brothers and sisters) made a choice against what we consider to have been an easy, obvious, and very understandable choice—to follow Christ.

The problem with boiling down the pre-mortal life the way we consistently do is that so much clear, necessary, helpful, and eye-opening doctrine is lost. So, here are a few of the generalizations we use to teach about pre-mortality and what I consider to be the deeper doctrines that are completely lost.

#1 – pre-mortal life was life through Christ

As alluded to above, we often present the pre-mortal existence as if it was all a war in heaven and only a tiny moment before coming to this world. And, when you and I think “war” we think conflict, fighting, weapons, blood, death, injury, etc. We think about mortal warfare. Now, I’m not suggesting that we didn’t have all of these things—of a kind—in the pre-mortal world, but I am suggesting that they presented themselves differently than we tend to think.

Pre-mortal life was life. It was the only life we knew. We had friendships. We had brothers and sisters we liked and those we didn’t like. There were personalities we got along with better than others. We spent time learning and growing in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of many things. There was no mortal time crunch there. And, I suspect we didn’t have to worry about day-to-day survival when it came to eating and seeking a profession. We were free to pursue our interests and to become masters of whatever we chose. We know we had not yet achieved perfection—as God is perfected.

However, whilst in the midst of all this spiritual living, we attended church. Yes! Maybe it was called church, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was called Family Home Evening, maybe it wasn’t. But, we did in fact attend or were proselyted to, because we were all taught God’s eternal plan of salvation. It was The Plan. It was the only plan that had ever been and that ever would be. And, it was taught by Christ, Himself (JST of St. John 1:1). That plan, that gospel, was the center of our broad—yet spiritual—life. It was already “the light” of our lives.

Consider the Joseph Smith Translation of John 1:1-4

In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made. In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men;

Just as we go about down here on earth with Christ as the light/power that quickens our existence, His light was integral to our pre-mortal existence. Just as Christ established His church and kingdom on this earth, He also established it in the pre-mortal world. Just as Christ preached the gospel here on earth, He also preached it to us in our pre-mortal existence.

Thus, we can see that from the beginning, from the moment we were organized (Abraham 3:22), Christ was already the center of our lives and God’s eternal plan. He didn’t just show up at The Council to stop Satan from implementing another plan. Christ had been The Plan all along.

#2 Satan’s plan was never “a plan” it was an attempted coup

When we summarize pre-mortality as a war between Christ and Satan, we get the false idea that Satan’s plan had a chance of being carried out. We get the idea that the war was a battle against two equal opponents. We get the idea that there was a chance that Satan might have won.

This, however, is a false idea (see #1 above). Satan’s plan was never a plan. It was an attempted coup. His sole desire was to dethrone the Almighty God, silence Christ’s preaching and power, and to have God’s power and glory in an absolute manner, which isn’t actually possible (Moses 4:1-4, Doctrine & Covenants 29:36). In fact, the war was not to decide which plan to follow, but to try to save those whom Satan led away “because of their agency.” God didn’t give up 1/3 of His children to maintain the “right plan.” One-third of His children—who had known all along what The Plan was—were cast out because they chose and attempted a fruitless coup on God, the Eternal Father.

Think about it. God won’t force us to accept His plan here on earth. And, He didn’t try to force us to accept His plan in the pre-mortal world. We can see that He is truly “the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Mormon 9:9). We can also see that He is bound by law and covenant—which is critical to Him being God (Mormon 9: 15, 19; Alma 42:22-23).

Thus, Satan, in his pure arrogance, tried to manipulate God. “Not one soul will be lost,” (Moses 4:1) he said, IF you will “give me thine honor” (which is God’s power and glory).

Tradition progress future management assessment analysis company business concept businessman

#3 No souls are lost

We always talk about Satan’s plan like it was tempting because “not one soul will be lost” (Moses 4:1). We always talk about God’s/Christ’s plan as if souls will be lost. The problem with how we reference the two perspectives is terribly flawed for three reasons.

First, by attempting a coup, Satan led away a third of God’s children “because of their agency” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:36) and lost them their opportunity to become like God (the very thing he claimed to be protecting). So, that first third was the first evidence that Satan had no concern for the loss of any soul–to any degree.

Second, Satan’s idea of saving souls was coercion and unrighteous dominion. Think about life here on earth right now. What soul was ever saved (in any extent) by such leadership/relationship tactics? As well, no soul can be saved in ignorance (Doctrine and Covenants 131:6). That means that forcing us all to do right would not have saved our souls. Taking away our agency would not have saved our souls. It would have done the exact opposite. It would have damned every single one of us CONTRARY to Satan’s promise (and he knew that!). This is because salvation is extended to us based upon the true and sincere desires of our hearts which motivate our actions—NOT on perfect actions (Doctrine and Covenants 137:9). Likewise, eternal life (or life like God) is extended to us NOT because of what we do but because of WHAT WE BECOME as we try to do.

Without mistakes, sin, weakness, learning, experience, and opposition, we could not have been saved. It is quite clear that the atonement of Jesus Christ is the center of the plan because it allows us to learn from mistakes, weaknesses, and sin without being condemned by the learning process. We can’t become godly without fully understanding what it means to be otherwise. We can’t choose to become like God if we don’t understand what it means to be a god.

Third, in God’s plan (or Christ’s plan), none of us are lost. It’s the exact opposite of Satan’s lying proposal. Everyone who comes to this earth will receive, and inherit, a kingdom of glory, except sons of perdition. And, it is really, really hard to become perdition. Satan was perdition because He knew God the Father, He knew Christ, He knew the plan, and in the face of that perfect knowledge he rebelled. Cain was perdition for the same reasons. He walked and talked with God and knowingly set it aside (which he nearly almost did before being born onto the earth, Moses 5:25).

What Satan meant by “not one shall be lost” was that if God would give him His power, honor, and glory, he/Satan would give everyone godhood without them becoming godly first (which he couldn’t have done because even godhood is bound by law and covenant, but I suspect it was a lie anyway, as he was not the type to share power with anyone–so it was a lie within a lie). And yet “being lost” is exactly what would have happened had our agency been violated (by Satan) as he proposed. Thus, again, we can see it was a power play, a coup, and nothing more.

In this life, none of us lose the opportunity to become like God. It is presented to us daily. And, inasmuch as we submit to the enticing of the Holy Spirit (Mosiah 3:19) we become a little more Christlike, a little more like God, each and every day. It is only when we refuse to submit to God’s laws, ordinances, covenants, and to the Holy Spirit—because of our agency—that the “becoming-like-god” process is halted (Satan refused to submit and was therefore damned because of his own agency). And, by passing through this mortal life many determine that “becoming like god” is not actually what they truly want (because they’ve been presented with other options and found them more desirable). Thus, no one is lost. Everyone ends up exactly where they want to be, or, they receive as much godliness as they choose to receive (Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-40).

#4 Mortal life is as much about becoming like God (through grace) as it is discovering who we are

When we are young we all want to become doctors, lawyers, or anybody who makes a big paycheck. We think we want money more than we care to think about what we actually want to do to make that money. As we get older, however, we come to realize (through trial and error) that even large sums of money don’t bring us happiness. We also learn that what money can buy doesn’t necessarily bring us happiness. And, we learn that fundamentally, we are drawn to different types of careers, hobbies, activities, places, etc., and which we love to be a part of regardless of the amount of money we receive in consequence. We become far more occupied with spending our lives and our time in ways that bring us happiness and joy than we are about money.

Becoming like God is follows a similar principle, though I’m not actually comparing godhood to mortal money. Yet, like lots of money, I suspect that many of us thought we wanted godhood in the pre-mortal life. And yet, as we pass through The Plan here on this earth, I’ve no doubt that many of us discover that the laws, ordinances, covenants, responsibilities, and principles that accompany “life like God,” are a little above what we really want to do—for eternity. Do we really want to spend eternity “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39)? Because, that’s what God does; and that’s what we’ll do when we become like Him. And, there is only one way to do that. It’s The Plan. The one we’ve been dissecting as part of the foundation of pre-mortal life.

I suspect the most merciful thing God has done for each one of us is to let us find out for ourselves if godhood is what we want–by passing through this life. And, not one soul is left out. If our part in this plan is such that we don’t have the opportunity to choose between godhood or the other options sufficiently, we will have our work done and the option given to us before the final resurrection and judgment through the vehicle of another part of The Plan, the spirit world. God’s plan is perfectly just and merciful because of the atonement offered by Jesus Christ. None of us will lose the opportunity for godhood. We must choose to let it pass by “because of [our] agency.”

Conclusion

Now, there are lots of doctrines tied to the pre-mortal world and life, but these are the ones I think people least ponder, consider, and understand. These are doctrines that we cannot be satisfied to shelter in church jargon and generalities. These are the doctrines that have the power to change behavior, increase understanding, and open our hearts to the inspiration, guidance, and promptings of the Holy Spirit. We all need this understanding.

It is not enough to suppose that there was a war in heaven. We must understand the fundamentals of why it took place and why it’s still a war that we are fighting today. We are still trying to help all of God’s children understand The Plan that has and will always be the only plan. We are still trying to help all of God’s children recognize who they are, what the purpose of life is, and to present them with the opportunity to choose godhood “because of their agency.” We are still fighting and trying to provide salvation in the only way it can be received. We are trying to offer exaltation in the only way it can be achieved.

BT

Doctrine: We have a perfect Father in Heaven, whom we can honor on Father’s Day, even if our earthly father is difficult to honor.

Father’s Day… It’s a tough day for many and not a holiday at all. Why? Because despite the pictures painted by advertisements and even our imaginations, many people’s earthly fathers were not so great. Maybe they were absent during those important growing up years. Maybe they were semi-present but unkind, abusive, alcoholics, rag-aholics, neglectful, or even workaholics: in other words, something in their lives always came before fatherhood—or us. And, today, fatherhood is quickly becoming something that is unappreciated and even dismissed as unimportant and unnecessary by jaded men, women, and children.

So, is there any father we can celebrate on Father’s Day? Yes.

The father I’m referring to is Heavenly Father—God, the Father. If your earthly father fell/falls far short of perfection, you and I, all of us, have a father to honor on Father’s Day. He is the Father of us all and unlike the frail and faulty versions (of Him) we have on this earth, He is perfect.

Heavenly Father is the perfect father. And, He is the God of the whole universe. What does that make you? It makes you galactic royalty. Your spirit (that deep part of your soul that often gets bogged down under mortal life and sometimes knows there has to be more) knows Him. And, though mortal life makes your vision of the eternal and the memory of your pre-earth life nearly impossible to process or imagine, yet somehow you do feel Him. Not all the time. But, you have felt His love and His hand in your life and you know it was Him even if you try to deny He exists; even if you are mad at Him; even if you go years without remembering those moments. You can’t pretend away your connection to Him anymore than you can pretend that the sun doesn’t exist.

So, what makes God, the Father, so perfect?firstvision

He loves you perfectly (1 John 4:8, 16).

God’s love is so perfect that it hurts. But, it is perfect love because it is true love. His perfect love is evidenced by His plan for us to become like Him. As part of that plan, He willingly offered His Only Begotten Son to right all the wrongs we would ever suffer, to heal all mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical injury and infirmity, and to pay justice for all the wrongs we commit as we learn godliness (St. John 3:16). Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have the privilege of choosing whatever we wish. And, if we don’t choose to become like God, our Father; He loves us so much that He has provided kingdoms of glory equal to the laws of righteousness and perfection we are willing to adhere to (Doctrine and Covenants 88:22-40). There is no eternal loss by taking part in God’s eternal plan, unless we choose it.

God’s love is so perfect that He allows us to have completely moral agency, to act and not to be acted upon (or compelled in any way to choose right; 2 Nephi 3:26). We can be influenced by others—sure—but we cannot be forced to choose anything we do not wish to choose. Even our lives can be restored to us—if threatened—because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Therefore, though it is the primary power of mortality, even free will (or moral agency), that we have a paramount example of God’s love. He will not make us choose Him, His life, or His ways. We are free to choose His way for ourselves IF we want them. So, you could say He loved us enough that He was willing to let us choose to not be with Him forever. It’s sad, but it’s perfect love.

God is perfectly just (Alma 42:15).

If we do anything wrong, even a hint of something wrong, we incur a debt to justice. And God never waives the reality of our choice. Whatever impact our wrong choice (or thought) has on us or others becomes a debt that must be repaid to Justice. Thus, there are also prescribed consequences accompanying the reality of our choice. We, and others, suffer the consequences of our wrong choices. This part of justice is no fun. But, because of that justice we have the ability to learn from our wrong choices, and others have the ability to learn from suffering the consequences as well. Justice, is actually a gift from God making this life matter. If God let anything slip by, no matter how small, then He (our Father in Heaven) could not be trusted to be fair. Thus, He would become a partial God, a changeable God, and then would cease to be God (Alma 42:13).

But, because our ability to learn and grow is paramount to our eternal progression, God is perfectly just and He will never stop being perfectly just. Thus, we can trust Him—perfectly. He loves us enough to be and remain perfectly just.

God is perfectly merciful (Alma 42:15).

Because of the Atonement performed by Jesus Christ, God can be perfectly just and also perfectly merciful. However, mercy can only be offered to those who meet the conditions to receive it. For example, if we commit sin, we are doomed by eternal consequences (not just earthly ones). Mercy can remove those eternal consequences if we are willing to learn from the sin, have the desire to become better, and repent. When we repent, then, justice is paid by the Atonement and while we may suffer earthly consequences, the eternal consequences have been stemmed on our behalf. We can transcend our sins and be “saved.”

Father and daughter outside house

Grace and mercy are extended to each of us in varying degrees. And, the only thing that creates those degrees is the differing levels of our willingness to become like Christ. So, we have control over what we receive—God has put that control in our hands. The more Christlike we become, the more mercy and grace we receive until we are eventually changed, grace by grace, into a being that is perfect (Doctrine and Covenants 93:19-20).

God’s mercies are over all His children in differing amounts. And, He doesn’t love any child more than another. But, His mercy and grace are extended by these conditions (1 Nephi 17:35). He could give grace and mercy to those who don’t repent or try to become like Him, but if He did so, not only would they not care or appreciate it, it would render moral agency (or free will) null and void. And, God loves us too much to give us something we are incapable of understanding or being accountable for. To do so would not be just or fair. Thus, God is perfectly merciful by placing conditions on the receipt of grace and mercy.

God never gives up on us (Jacob 6:5; Revelation 3:19; Helaman 15:3).

This is something that if you think about it may surprise you. But, consider: God knows the beginning from the end. He knows if we are going to sin in two minutes or twenty years. He knows, ultimately, what eternal end we will all come to. And yet, He still exerts all His universal and galactic resources to persuade, encourage, plead, chasten/reprove, and ask us to follow Him, become like Him, and live so that we can return home to Him…whether we will eventually do so or not.

When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ (our Mediator between us and God, the Father), we will stand in awe that God knew all the wrong we would do, and even if we would ultimately eternally spurn His offer of godhood. Yet, He used His resources to encourage us anyway, despite His knowledge of the future. What a show of perfect love!

To an earthly CEO or perhaps even an earthly father, such resources might have been withheld “if she/he is going to waste them and not use them to accomplish this or that.” But, when we stand before God we will know with certainty that He tried to give us everything that He has despite knowing we would waste the effort/resources. Because, to God, such an allotment of resources could never be wasted on showing His love and desire for us to choose Him and His godly life.

When I was younger, I admit to sneaking out one night. The moment my earthly father knew what I was up to He was upset. But, He didn’t write me off. He sought me out, drove me home, patiently reproved me, and encouraged me to be better.

This is what God does for us. Even if we choose wrong, He comes after us, invites us to “come home.” He reproves us, asks us to repent, and encourages us to be better. And, whether we like that constant barrage of “come unto Me,” or not, His perfect love requires that He offer it until the end.

God is perfectly sympathetic and empathetic (Alma 7:11-13).

Not only does God understand everything we will ever feel or think, He also knows it by experience. We know that Christ suffered both body and spirit (Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19) and “according to the flesh” that He might know and understand all of human suffering and sin (Alma 7:11-13). But, God, the Father, understands all and knows all because He was once as we are.

Newborn baby in Hispanic dad's arms

Lorenzo Snow taught: As man now is, God once was, as God now is, man may be.

Though it is difficult to comprehend, there is nothing about our human experience that God, our Heavenly Father doesn’t understand, comprehend, feel, know, or that He hasn’t experienced. Thus, He truly weeps with us and for us (Moses 7:29-40), though ultimately He must (because of His perfect love) stay His hand for the majority of this life’s struggles.

God gives us eternal gifts (Doctrine and Covenants 46:11; Moroni 10:8; Mosiah 2:20-21).

Nothing that we have is truly our own except our agency, and that too is a gift from God. This earth, God’s plan, our bodies, you name it—it belongs to God. Yet, He gives it all freely to us that we may become as He is. He even goes above and beyond our lives and our breath and day-to-day strengths and gives us unique talents, spiritual abilities, and gifts.

Not one of God’s children is identical to the other. Each prophet has different talents and strengths than another. Each mother has different strengths in mothering than another, and so forth. Even if two of God’s children appear to have similar talents, when you sit them down and compare how they apply them based on their own personalities and personal inspiration, they come up completely different. And those differences impact the world in important and necessary ways.

So, our commandments may be the same, but that is not the same as God treating us all the same. He treats us all the same inasmuch as He treats us all as individuals. The commandments of God are all the same because despite our unique differences, the path to Godhood is certain and sure. Just as no two doctors are alike, so also no two of us who seek to become godly are alike. The gifts God has bestowed upon us make each of us unique both now and in eternity.

God has a perfect sense of humor (Alma 55:32; St. John 20:4) and likes to have a righteously good time (Doctrine and Covenants 136:28; 25:12).

God does not trifle (make light of) with sacred things and He condemns irreverence, loud laughter (or rude laughter), and evil speaking (i.e. dirty jokes, demeaning sarcasm, etc). But, He does know how to have a good time in a way that uplifts all (never at the expense of any of His creations).

I remember, as a young teenager, hearing a talk by my elder sister when she talked about discovering God has a sense of humor. I remember listening intently as she read St. John 20:4 where a disciple takes the time to point out that he ran faster than Peter to the sepulcher. There was no derogatory statement about Peter’s “being out of shape” or “the slow one.” Yet, there in the NT is the personality of the disciple taking a brief moment to point out (like a little boy) that “he won.”

Then, reading in the Book of Mormon, it’s so funny to hear  in your head the words, “And they were thus cautious that no poison should be administered among them; for if their wine would poison a Lamanite it would also poison a Nehite…” (Alma 55:32). I mean, think about it: the Lord helped Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon. He could have easily told Joseph to bypass this statement, or translate it differently. Yet, it remains an innocent bit of humor—for us.

I haven’t known any great prophets or leaders of our church (both male and female) who haven’t had a great sense of humor. They present all sorts of mortal ironies and understand how to couch real mortal suffering in proper context. They do it in a way that hits home with us, often teaches an important doctrine, and yet still allows us to laugh. It seems clear to me that God appreciates a good clean joke, and often, when we are exhausted and stressed beyond measure, it is a laugh that comes to our lips (instead of tears or anger) when we come upon something else that burns up our last nerve. This is because for a moment we see the futility of our mortal predicament in an eternal sense and we are led (by the Spirit, in my opinion) to laugh.

God wants us to sing and dance and show gratitude—all forms of good music and body movement. He even goes so far as to say that He loves music, it is a “prayer unto Him” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:12)fatherhood3

Conclusion

Well, I could go on and on with all of our Heavenly Father’s perfect traits. But, in conclusion I wish to pay a short tribute to my earthly father. I have been blessed beyond measure to have a father who though imperfect was still wonderful enough that he made it easy for me to trust in and follow my Heavenly Father. I know my Dad didn’t start out flawless. But he was the type to embrace truth the moment he became aware of it. He was the type who when he saw right, adopted it and pressed onward without looking back and without any thought of loss or sacrifice to himself. He has never seemed to have any particularly earthly selfish agenda. He is, like Nathan of old, without guile.

My Dad always lived according to what he believed was right, the opinion of others meant nothing. He never seemed to ultimately care what others thought, but only what God thought. And, to my blessing, such goodness just seems to be a natural part of him. He is full of light. If you stand in his presence or sit by his side for enough minutes (it doesn’t take long), you can simply feel the love rolling off him in waves.

My Dad blessed me, coached me, cried with me, held me; picked me up off the floor of our home, a basketball court, the airport, and has moved heaven and earth to pick me up off the side of roads and countless other broken parts of my life. My Dad has always made his most important “work and glory” our family. He loves nothing more than to be with us and all of his many talents and joys seem to derive from that center. Which…seems to be the same as God, the Father (Moses 1:39).

My Dad doesn’t overlook sins, but he invites us to choose the right and “go and sin no more” with a kindness I can only describe as Christlike. His disciplines were always tears of disappointment, which had a more powerful effect upon me than “the sword.” I never could bare to see my Dad cry.

My Dad has been a father to countless “children” both inside and outside our family. And, if you don’t have a father like him on earth, I assure you that you have a Father even greater than the one I described, “in heaven.”

I testify that Fatherhood is real. “Our Father by whose name, all Fatherhood is known…” is God, the Eternal Father of heaven and earth, and you and me. He alone proves that being a father, and fatherhood, is important, necessary, and worth honoring. And, if on this holiday you struggle to honor your earthly father, then you most certainly have a Father in Heaven who is worthy of a prayer of gratitude and love—a spiritual Father’s Day card—for His perfect love for you.

BT

How often have you thought you wanted something only to find that after having it, it didn’t bring with it the impact or delight you had expected? Yet, somehow, prior to possessing the thing, you were convinced, even certain, that it was going to delight you far beyond the present moment and affect all the threads of your life. Then, it simply fell short. So, you have to ask yourself, why did you think that to begin with? How come you didn’t know that it would fall short; that it would fail you?

How often do people pursue a certain college degree and a specific career, only to find shortly in that they hate what they do and money isn’t a sufficient draw. They’d rather do what they love for a far lesser paycheck than do what they hate for the big bucks. Why did they go into the original degree and career path in the first place? Why did they waste all that time and money in the wrong path? Because they thought that was what they wanted. It took experience for them to realize it wasn’t.

I could make an endless list of scenarios where our expectations about ourselves and life continually throw us for a loop. But, it all boils down to the main point of this blog.  And that is this…

There comes a time in our lives when we start to realize, a little at a time, that many of the things we supposed about ourselves aren’t actually true. We thought we loved being the life of the party only to realize now that in all actuality, it has always worn us out. We thought we hated sappy romance novels only to realize after finally buckling down and reading one recommended by a friend, that we like them better than the crime thrillers we have read for years. Or, perhaps we thought our dream life was living in a home on a lake or golf course and sailing around on a yacht, and now that we have those things, they are kind of cool, but they pale in comparison to eating out at the one favorite restaurant with our significant other and playing board games with our kids.

I remember the movie The Runaway Bride where the bride (Julia Roberts) kept running way from the altar. Why? Because when the long-awaited moment arrived she didn’t feel like she thought she should. It failed her expectations and assumptions despite all the glitz and glam. Yet, time after time she’d get proposed to, make it to the wedding day, and then she’d bolt. In the end, it came down to the fact that she was always trying to be the woman these men wanted because she thought that was the woman she was, or the woman she wanted to be. It wasn’t until she took some time to figure herself out that true love became possible.

And, this is the point of this blog. The gospel, the real deep down gospel, only becomes truly possible for us when we know who we really are and what we really want—for eternity.

God knows who we are and what we really want. But, in reality, we don’t. And I have always felt strongly that this life, God’s plan, is actually about us coming to a realization of what God already knows. Why did He send us down here, then, if we already knew? Isn’t that sort of unkind and unfair to put us through this often miserable mortal experience just for us to come to the same conclusion He’s already got?

Well, imagine the premortal world. We were God’s spiritual offspring, but we weren’t exactly as He is. He had godly qualities and attributes that we had not yet attained. And, in fact, we got to a point where we couldn’t progress to become like Him without this mortal existence.

It had to be frustrating, after progressing for eons, to suddenly come to a point where we couldn’t rise higher. So, God says to us, “Do you really want to become like me? It’s tough stuff. Sure, I have powers and capabilities you don’t have, but to be like this requires a lot of hard things.” Without a thought, “Ya, we want that,” we all said. Because we really thought we did. We didn’t have the experience to know ourselves any deeper. And, though most of us were inherently very good, we weren’t yet perfect. And, therefore, we were incapable of knowing ourselves perfectly. That was why we were no longer progressing.

Think about it: God could have said, “Cindy and Mark, you actually don’t want to be like me. I know you don’t realize that yet, but in reality, you both prefer to bowl and drink beer for eternity and would be much happier doing that, rather than to spend it creating worlds and working eternally to exalt your spiritual offspring.” Then, He could have turned to Cain and said, “Cain, you think you want to become like me, but once you’re down there you’re going to murder your younger brother out of jealously and greed and then be damned for all eternity.” Then, He could have turned to all of us and said, “So, as you can see, rather than put you all through this whole testing and proving thing, I’m just going to consign you to your eternal destinations because I know you better than you know yourself.”

No longer sounds loving, does it. And it wouldn’t have been because we would not have had the ability to know if He was being fair to us. To us, it would have sounded unkind and unloving because we would have truly believed we wanted to be like God, and no amount of God telling us otherwise would have solved our lack of knowledge, understanding, and experience.

No, it is far more loving to bring us down to this life and let us learn by experience to know the good from the evil; to let us learn from experience whether we prefer self-sacrifice or selfishness, whether we prefer keeping the Sabbath Day holy or playing golf, whether we prefer to be perceived as right or actually doing what’s right despite others’ perceptions, etc. Because then, when we stand before God at the judgment we won’t be offended, or even sorry, when He sends us off to play golf for eternity, because we will know that we prefer that over the other options available to us. We learned from our own experience who we are and what we really want for eternity. There won’t be any bartering for a higher glory, because we won’t want it. By experience we will come to know that we don’t want it…or that we do.

Allowing us to learn the truth about ourselves for ourselves—that is true love. And, it’s not easy.

.photo with a man and a questionmark mask

I get a little annoyed at times when I hear people talk about how God is testing them to see if they can get back home to Him. First of all, they forget that it’s not just about getting home to God, it’s about becoming like Him. There is a big difference. Second, saying, “God is testing me to see if I can get back home to Him,” makes God’s character sound untrustworthy—as if He’s up there treating us like white lab rats, sending us through mazes, all just to see, through some morbid curiosity what choices we’ll make and if we’ll make it. No, sorry. I simply dislike that wording and what it implies about God. That’s not the God I know.

So, it’s fairly simple.

God knows us better than we will ever know ourselves. Why? He knows everything, past, present, and future. (2 Nephi 9:20)

Then, that’s predestination, right? That means He knows who going to make it (to become like Him) and who’s not, right? Yes. He sure does.

Well, then that totally refutes my agency, doesn’t it? I mean, what’s the purpose of life if God already knows what I’m going to choose? Good question. Keep reading.

If this life is about God testing me, doesn’t God’s omniscience cancel out the test? Great question. No.

This life is not about God testing us for His knowledge and benefit. The word “testing” is shallow and insufficient to encompass the purpose of God’s plan. It implies merely ticking off right answers. The real purpose of life is for us to be “proved” (Abraham 3:25 which implies providing evidence or real life data), to learn by experience who we are what it is we are going to choose. God knows, but we don’t. And, because we don’t truly know ourselves this existence is entirely valid, no matter what God knows. It’s also why He doesn’t interfere, because it’s not about having a perfect world. It’s about us “becoming godly” nor choosing to not become godly. The atonement has taken care of all the rest.

So, now you may ask:

But, if God knows what I’m going to do, does that mean He refuses to bless me because He knows in 10 years I’m going to apostatize and fall away from His plan? No.

God is bound to bless us if we keep His commandments irrespective of past or future sin (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10; 130:20-21). If He deviated from that law He would cease to be God. This is why being a god is not for everyone. Not everyone wants to be bound so tightly by law and covenant (see previous blog post, God’s Power is Not Absolute). So, no matter what you have done or what you will do, God will bless you when you keep His commandments. The same applies to the opposite. No matter how righteous you’ve been or how righteous you may be some day, you will still lose blessings and suffer consequences if you sin now. That’s God’s eternal law.

So, when I imagine the premortal life this is what I see.

We knew God was the father of our spirits. We also realized that He was God. And, He was a bit different from us in a few important ways. He had a glorified, celestial body of flesh and bones. We didn’t. He had an eternal family unit (including an eternal marriage with a glorified, celestial woman). We were only children. We did not have spouses and children. And, while we were basically good, God was perfect. He was perfectly kind, loving, merciful, just, etc. We were not. Finally, while we had some power, God’s power to influence not only His environment, but the entire universe was infinitely greater than ours (except perhaps when we acted under His direction—and thereby His power and authority, not so much unlike this present life).

So, it stands to reason that we all wanted to be “like God, our Father,” or we thought we did. So, God presented a plan. That plan was “how to become like God.” But it was also, “how to determine if becoming like God is what you really want.”

Why do we have to go through a plan? Because being 100% like God is super-duper hard. It requires being bound by covenant and law. It requires all the traits God has that we yet do not have. It’s a worthy goal and we can do it IF we follow God’s plan and use this “proving environment” to become; which it is designed to help us do.

However, IF, while we’re down here in this proving environment, we learn for ourselves that while being exactly like God sounds great, it isn’t actually what we want (something we didn’t know previously); then, His plan provides for some alternative glories. Which, is actually pretty cool!

Before we came to this life, becoming like God sounded great. We knew it would be hard. But, we believed we wanted it. However, now that we are here, we—by our own jaunt through God’s godly proving environment—learn for ourselves if being like God is truly what we do want. So, again, the testing and proving isn’t really for God. It’s for us. Or, at least, that’s my opinion.

And, if this life is about getting to know ourselves. Then, it means it’s entire framework is meant to help us conquer our false assumptions and get to the crux of what really rules our hearts and minds. It means learning through trial and suffering to peel back our outer shells and take a gander at who we really are, what we really want, what we are really willing to do, what we are really willing to sacrifice, and IF that matches up with what it requires to become like God.

I feel that when we think about life this way, it makes so much more sense. It stops looking like some masochistic game on God’s part and all of the sudden looks like a sifting sieve. That sieve has three main tiers (scripturally). Some people are ultimately too “coarse” to fall through the telestial sieve onto the terrestrial sieve. And, though refined enough to get to the terrestrial sieve, many more are too coarse to make it down to the celestial sieve. Even fewer will be refined enough to make it to the actual “like God” tray at the bottom of the mortality sifting machine.

It still means we teach the ideal—to become like God. But, it also means we have more respect for individual agency. It means we allow people the same privilege to worship how, where, or what they may (11th Article of Faith). It means we don’t condemn others when they seem to be choosing another path than the one God would want them to choose. Because, that is the point of this life. If the path they are on doesn’t lead them to godhood, then we should certainly encourage them to reconsider, but ultimately, they may learn more quickly that they want godhood if they first experience a different eternal option. Mortal experience is the most beautiful and powerful teacher in the universe. That’s why we’re here.

If we see life (and God’s plan) in the context of coming to know ourselves, it answers a lot of currently difficult or unanswered questions. For example:

Human pain and suffering seems too cold and indifferent as a test for God to figure out what we’re made of. But, if we look at it as a test for us to see what we’re made of—for ourselves—and whether or not we’re up for godliness, it makes a ton of sense.

Why does God allow any human suffering? Because even if we suffer unfairly, it refines us and helps us have Godly sympathy. I mean, after all, who wants a God who doesn’t understand pain and suffering? He or she would make a very poor deity.

Why does God allow imperfect people to be His prophets, apostles, and other leaders? Because their service is as much about helping them to come to know themselves as it is about us coming to know ourselves. You see, it isn’t about perfection, it’s about grace.

Why does God not answer every question or fix every seeming contradiction in life, the scriptures, etc.? Because having all the answers is not what matters. It’s whether or not we are willing to exercise faith—the faith necessary unto eternal salvation—and trust in what we do know. Consequently, when the answers are made clear our own knowledge of our own power, capability, and righteousness is strengthened and solidified!  Thus, we learn the truth of principles by experience prior to being told them. It works best that way!

Think of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac! That was a psychotic request IF it was for God’s benefit. But, if it was for Abraham’s knowledge of himself (and Isaac’s knowledge of himself), then it makes perfect sense. God said to Abraham, “Now I know that thou fearest God…” and yet what He meant is, “Now Thou knowest that thou fearest God…” Hugh B. Brown said: “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham” (Five Scriptures that will Get You Through Anything).

Consider for yourself: what do you know about yourself but keep pretending you don’t know? What did you learn about yourself in your last trial or struggle? Or, what are you learning currently in a trial or struggle? What weaknesses and struggles have you overcome to date that have changed your for the better as a person? Have you given yourself that chance to try to live up to God’s covenants and laws? Do you yet know if you want to become like Him? Or, are you still in suspense about your own ability to be faithful and godly because you’re afraid to try? Do you know, as Abraham came to know, “That thou fearest God, seeing thou has not withheld thy <fill in the blank>”

For more on this line of pondering, see previous blog post The Solution to Utopia.

BT

Doctrine: The problem with every utopia ever theorized was that it presumed the existence of a certain, fixed kind of human being, which doesn’t currently exist. Utopia ideals always fail because they can create a society, but they can’t control human nature. The only way to create a successful utopia is to first create/form a certain type of individual who will be happy to live there, bound by specific laws and conditions, forever. This is God’s plan—to help us become like Him so that we can live like Him and dwell with Him.

A few years back I read a book I never would have read without a little encouragement. It was Louis Mumford’s Story of Utopia.

What’s this book about? It’s Louis Mumford summarizing all the different utopias that have been thought up, suggested, and some even poorly attempted. Louis talks about the ideals of each utopia, what ideals they are based on, and the flaws in their creation—in other words, why they didn’t work, couldn’t have worked, and/or were never actually attempted.

They all ultimately had many flaws that made them impossible to implement. However, the one unique flaw they all shared: they didn’t factor in human nature.

Each utopia—or perfect world—ever theorized has presumed the existence of a certain kind of human being which doesn’t currently exist. These dreamers drew up the framework of their “perfect worlds” and based them on types of “perfect individuals.” They presumed that these worlds would work but could never bridge the gap on how to arrive at the type of human being that would adhere to the utopia’s belief system—forever.TheStoryofUtopias

Even if a utopic society could be created and people induced, convinced, or converted to live there, eventually they would have offspring. And, if the offspring didn’t adhere to the utopic laws they would either be “cast out” or would leave of their own accord. Then, even if the original mortal utopians remained, they would either eventually leave themselves (based on the changeability of human nature) or eventually die off and the society would end. Utopia experiment—fail.

So, is the idea of a utopia completely ridiculous? No.

Is the idea of a utopia possible? Absolutely.

The way to achieve any kind of utopia is to first create/form the people you intend to live there.

Every individual brought into a utopia must first become the type of person who will be perfect, or best suited for the utopia created. Then, they must be totally converted (heart, mind, might, and spirit) to the utopia. Each individual must believe wholeheartedly in the laws of the utopia, have become—through trial, error, and learning—the kind of person who will like and be comfortable in the utopia, and be content to remain in that utopia within the bounds it has been given. In other words, based on their exposure to (and perhaps even attempts at) other utopia options, every time these individuals will choose the same utopia.

A person destined for any kind of utopia must know, inside and out and in every fiber of their being, what their type of utopia is and thus be content, happy, and joyful to live in it. That means that knowing other options exist (options that may or may not have different, lesser, or greater opportunities and responsibilities) does nothing to change their final desires and designs. They know what they want and that is what they have and where they are.

I suppose it is possible that an individual, once in a certain utopia, may realize that they might have, or could have, chosen a different utopia; but it’s the kind of momentary and shallow longing we all display when we see something another has and see real benefits in it. Yet, when presented with the work and effort designed to have those benefits, we count what we have sufficient (even preferable, smarter, or better) in comparison to the work and responsibility required to achieve what others have.

Once you have a certain type of fixed person you can place them in a utopia designed to meet the type of person they are, and whala! You have a utopia that will work, that will be peaceful, that will last—forever.

And, this process is exactly the process we are all in. We are, because of God’s plan, in the process of becoming what we will be forever, and which will determine our eternal utopia.

Fantasy world.

In Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-47 (excerpts, brackets, italics, and parenthesis added by me to make a point) we read:

And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.

And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.

And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things…

Therefore, it [the soul] must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory (Utopia #1);

For after it [the soul] hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father (Utopia #1);

That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it [the soul] made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.

And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom (or utopia), even that of a terrestrial kingdom (Utopia #2), or that of a telestial kingdom (Utopia #3).

For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory (Utopia #1).

And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory (Utopia #2).

And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory (Utopia #3); therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory (or utopia). Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.

…For notwithstanding they [our bodies] die, they also shall rise again, a spiritual body.

They who are of a celestial spirit (who have become a celestial type of person) shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.

Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fullness (or a body that is suited to Utopia #1).

And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fullness (or a body that is suited to Utopia #2).

And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fullness (or a body that is suited to Utopia #3).

And they who remain (who don’t get a utopia) shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift. (Or, in other words, they wouldn’t have wanted to other utopias because they were not the type of person suited for any of them and they wouldn’t have had joy in the laws that governed those utopias.)

And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law (e.g. a utopia, or a utopic person) is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.

That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.

All kingdoms (utopias) have a law given;

And there are many kingdoms (utopias); for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.

And unto every kingdom (utopia) is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified (and so they don’t get one of those utopias).

For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.

He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.

Here we see, quite clearly what God’s plan is for His children. His goal is for all of us to have the kingdom of glory (utopia), the powers, the privileges, the binding covenants, the traits, and the eternal responsibilities that He has and that He enjoys. He enjoys the celestial kingdom (or Utopia #1).

utopia, 3D rendering, blue street sign

However, if after making a go (in this life) at the laws, ordinances, responsibilities, etc. that turn us into a Utopia #1 person, we decide that while it sounds nice, we are far more comfortable with something less and that we have become something less, then He grants unto us as much as we will receive.

(You can get more information on the different types of people who live in these different utopias by reading, and studying, Doctrine and Covenants section 76, as well as other scriptural resources…if you’re up for the study challenge).

We also read in Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4:

In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.

What does this mean? It means that even within Utopia #1 there are different levels of law, obedience, responsibility, and power. And, that once we’ve become a certain type of person and chosen/discovered where we are comfortable, that not only will we likely not want an increase, but God’s laws forbid it.

How can God be so sure where we belong? How can He consign us to a place for…eternity? Well, He knows everything perfectly and knew it long before we were ever born into His plan; but when the day of our resurrection comes, we will know what we want and what utopia will be ours without God telling us. We will have already been pitted against the requirements for each and our own lives, choices, and experiences will reveal to us exactly what we want and where we would like to spend our eternity. We are not going to be surprised.

In Alma 34:32-34 (and I suggest reading also some of the accompanying verses) we read:

For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

What does this mean?

It means that when the time comes and our resurrection and judgment comes about, we will be who we have chosen (and made a sincere effort) to become. Standing before God isn’t going to suddenly change what we have become or what we want. As I mentioned near the beginning, we will have already been pitted against the requirements and laws for all the possible utopias (whether in mortality or the spirit world, if we didn’t get the opportunity in mortality, prior to our resurrection). We will have become certain type of person. Just dying or standing before God isn’t going to change that.

Whether in this life (mortality) or the spirit world (for those who didn’t get a chance to be taught regarding all their eternal utopia options in mortality) we will ALL have had more than ample opportunity to figure out for ourselves what we want. God is long-suffering and patient and He will ensure we have had the chance to come to know ourselves. We will have no excuse or complaint when we approach the throne of God. And, if we aren’t celestial beings we will not be comfortable in His presence, even for that short time while we reckon with Him prior to being given our chosen glory.

Either our works, thoughts, and words will save and exalt us (to Utopia #1) or they:

“will condemn us…and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from [God’s] presence” (Alma 12:14). But, “we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge…that all his judgments [and plans] are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men… (Alma 12:15). For, “he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction” (Alma 29:4).

So, is any utopia possible? Sure, and God has a perfect and sure plan to ensure we all receive the most wonderful, peaceful, and perfect place that we are willing to receive. Our only goal then is to decide what utopia we want and become that kind of person by keeping the laws set for that place.

And so on and so forth.

So, what utopia do you want? Who will you become and where will you dwell—for eternity?

BT

Doctrine: Our primary identity is that we are Children of God. If we are true to God, then we are being true to ourselves. Christ faced and experienced ALL temptation and He overcame all of it to be “true to Himself,” and His role in God’s plan of salvation.

Today’s post is a guest post. I came across Tristan on Instagram (@the_gay_r.m) and was so impressed with his posts, and eventually his story, that I asked him to write this post. And, it’s power has already sent my mind to pondering… There is some powerful doctrine here. It is simple, but not easy. It’s clear, but daunting. And, it applies to all of us, whether we experience this particular mortal struggle, weakness, or others.

Tristan FosterYou can also follow Tristan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thegayrm/ or the direct link to his blog is http://thegayrm.blogspot.com/

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As a member of the Church who experiences same-sex attraction, I often find myself in the crossfire between well-intentioned churchgoers and the LGBT community. I am often asked by members of both of these parties why I choose to stay in the Church. The short answer is that I have a testimony of the Gospel forged in the trials of my faith. However, a complex situation such as mine warrants a more detailed explanation.

From a young age I was taught the Gospel of Christ in its purity, as most children who actively attend church are. In primary we are drilled with the song “I am a Child of God,” which quickly grows old for many people. It took many years for the importance of this hymn to pierce my heart. I often thought that being a child of God wasn’t all that special, since literally everyone is a child of God (even Satan, for crying out loud, and look what happened to him!). My patriarchal blessing advices me to always remember that I have Heavenly Parents who know me better than I know myself.

A common phrase in the world today is “Be true to yourself.” This is especially true in the LGBT community. I know many people who have left their spouses to pursue same-sex relationships in an effort to be “authentic.” And, ironically, active members of the Church who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria are continuously ridiculed by the world for “living a lie.” This attempt to invalidate the choices of temple-worthy saints has long-lost its novelty in my book.

Everyone on the planet chose to come here by accepting Christ’s Plan of Salvation. We are all children of the Supreme creator of the universe, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. The God who parted the Red Sea and whose power broke the bonds of death and hell. We are children of deity. Now, if I were to live a lifestyle contrary to the commandments and framework of God’s plan, am I living true to myself as a son of God? Absolutely not. Neither am I being true to Him. I often tag my posts with #TrueToHim to illustrate what it means to be truly authentic as a child of God. If we are being true to Him, we are most certainly being true to ourselves.

The second gospel doctrine that my testimony is rooted in is the infinite atonement. It’s something that we have right in front of us all the time yet we too often fail to comprehend its power. My favorite verses of scripture are Alma 7:11-13 because they so beautifully elaborate upon this subject. Because the Lord chose to endure all that we have gone through, not only our sin and guilt but even our pain and temptations, He was enabled to best succor us. Many people teach that to “succor” means “to run to.” However, it actually means “to nourish or help.” His bowels are full of mercy toward us because of the empathy granted Him by His sacrifice. Because of this, He above any other force knows us. He weeps with us because He understands the difficult choices we have to make daily and the opposition that seems to crush us.

Did the Savior experience same-sex attraction? Maybe. We aren’t entirely sure how He took upon Himself our temptations, but in any case I know that He understands something that so many in the Church do not. Knowing that I am not alone in my struggle means the world to me. We can never say that we aren’t understood by anyone because of the atonement. I am strongly attracted to other men. This isn’t just a fetish or an addiction as I’ve overheard at church. I’m drawn to men physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I know that this must be nearly impossible for “straight” people to wrap their minds around, but we don’t have to literally experience or atone for such a trial in order to empathize. We are all connected by common denominators, such as pain and suffering. While the Savior is the ultimate source of comfort, we are commanded to take His yoke upon us and mourn with those who mourn.

It seems that in times past the atonement was portrayed as the solution to sin (which it is), but more recently we’ve been better educated on another aspect of the atonement: enabling grace. I know that the atonement of Jesus Christ has granted me power to bridle my passions. We learn in Ether that the Lord will convert our weaknesses into strengths if we humble ourselves and have faith in Him. For a long time I thought that this meant that He would take away this struggle that I didn’t choose and certainly didn’t want, but I’ve found that, at least for the time being, this scripture has a slightly different meaning.

I am heavily involved with a group of active Church members who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. I was considered for a video profile on the Church’s new MormonAndGay.org. I’ve been interviewed by the Salt Lake Tribune and a BYU reporter, and I’ve published articles, videos, and other interviews to be the person I needed when I was younger. I hate to say it, but my parents don’t understand the depth of what I go through, and I imagine that many LGBT members face comparable difficulties. It is because I am in the trenches with them, similarly struggling to master the natural man and grow to be the being that God intends, that I am able to reach them. It is through the enabling power of the atonement that I am able to use my weakness to bless and uplift other children of God. I don’t say this to brag, but rather to illustrate that strength doesn’t come from an absence of temptation, but courage in the face of it.

People ask me why I’ve chosen to step forward and share my story. They fear that I’m putting myself in a vulnerable position, which is absolutely true. However, if the Savior stood beside me, would I be willing to testify of Him from the unique perspective of a same-sex attracted member? My answer is yes.

The third doctrine of the Gospel that keeps me grounded is the resurrection. I have a firm testimony that Christ our Savior lives, that His death on the cross was conquered through His priesthood power, thus paving the way for us and our kindred dead to rise in the glorious resurrection of the millennium. The Messiah breathes and walks beside us in our afflictions, carrying our load without us recognizing it. He is a god who weeps. I have felt His arms around me as He sat with me in the darkness of my deepest despair. His is the ultimate power in the universe, and He employs it to lift us up. Because I know that I will live again in the life to come, I know why I’m here. So while the struggle to avoid romantic relationship with other men is excruciating, the thought of not being with my family in the next life is far more haunting.

Through the doctrines of divine identity, the infinite atonement, and the resurrection, I can see beyond the vision of my eyes. Only a step at a time is illuminated in the path before me, and the Lord sometimes asks me to take a leap of faith into the darkness. However, I have faith that the enabling grace of His atonement can reach even a sinner such as I. I hope that by sharing my story I can help others remember that there is room for all of us at the table of Christ, that there are unsung songs that need to be heard in our journey to sainthood. The Lord understands what it is to be Tristan, and He knows what is to be you.woman drawing a picture, sketch of herself

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I only have one thought to add, spurred by this powerful post.

While reading this post, it hit me hard, that Christ doesn’t ask any of us to do what He hasn’t already done. Christ was God’s Only Begotten Son (in the flesh). That was His true identity. And, as such, He had the potential and power to be the Savior (if He chose…which He did). And, He experienced all temptation and suffering (whether “in the flesh” as He lived a mortal life, or through the literal, vicarious ordinance of the atonement). Yet, He overcame all to be “true to Himself.” And, He asks us to do the same (with His help). He asks us to overcome our weaknesses and struggles and overcome temptation to be true to ourselves…to become who we were born to be…not just God’s offspring with the potential to be gods; but to become like God (Romans 8:16-17).

It brings to my mind a quote by C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, Book 3, Chapter 11, Faith, Paragraph 7).

I’d like to preface this quote by first noting that we are all a combination of bad and good and that is that which we choose to act upon that defines us (thanks Sirius Black, HP movie 5); and that C.S. Lewis’s use of the word “bad” in this quote should not be taken too personally, as some people resent the “label” because they think it means I am trying to blanket judge their entire lives as bad (which, I’m not). However, interestingly, if we labeled them “good,” I think they wouldn’t put up a fight and complain about us blanket-judging them to be perfect. If it is easier to chew on, consider replacing “bad” with “sinful” and “good” with “sinless.”

…No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.  A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.  This is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.  After all, you find out the strength of the [an] army by fighting against it, not by giving in.  You find out the strength of the wind by trying to talk against it, not by lying down.  A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.  That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness.  They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.  We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only  man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.

No matter what our weaknesses, sins, or struggles are, may we choose to be “true to ourselves” as Children of God, and not identify ourselves by our weakness, our sins, our struggles, or any other lesser term…for certainly this “label” is of all the most powerful, the most important, and the most empowering.

BT

Doctrine: Free will has one specific goal and purpose: God’s desire to help us become like Him and to have all that He has. It allows us to decide, and ultimately prove to ourselves (through experience), if we desire what God desires for us. To enable its purpose, free will (agency) has set conditions; which if we try to obscure or alter (superficially) results only in misery and suffering. Moral agency may be the highest law of heaven because it has sponsored the greatest applications of God’s love: His plan for us to gain access to His life and power, and the atonement performed by Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

Agency, i.e. free will, is one of those doctrines that many people believe they understand. And yet, I find that they understand it very little. Some think free will means no law, no guidelines, no rules, no restrictions and no consequences. Others believe laws, commands, rules, and consequences are necessary but then they use unrighteous dominion and fear to enforce them.

These are extremes, but many of us struggle to find the middle ground and thereby fail to understand our own moral agency and how to treat others as moral agents. Because we don’t grasp the doctrines behind agency we end up frequently misapplying it. We adopt false doctrines that guide our behaviors and impact our relationships. But, there is a correct place to sit along the spectrum of communication and treatment of others. And, it all comes down to understanding Moral Agency.

Moral Agency is the product of one specific goal or purpose: God’s desire to help us become like Him and to have all that He has. Our agency is a gift from Him. Moral Agency is what allows us to decide, and ultimately prove to ourselves (through experience), if we desire what God desires for us. That’s its purpose.

In order to preserve the purpose of God’s gift or Moral Agency, we need several conditions in place These conditions allow us to have free will and exercise to figure out if we want to become like God:

  1. Law defining right and wrong choices that will lead us toward godhood or away from it; and the blessings and consequences that accompany those right and wrong choices
  2. Knowledge of good and evil (established by the law) communicated to us and taught to us
  3. Enticements to do good and enticements to do evil (marketing from God and Satan)
  4. Ability for our actions to have tangible impact, or in other words, the mortal conditions (of pain and joy) that make our choices matter (this is not a simulation or a video game)
  5. Sufficient autonomy to act without interference (this includes the environment/world and even God, Himself out of our immediate presence)
  6. Ability to learn from mistakes and sins without being condemned by those mistakes and sins when we learn to do otherwise

I don’t have the luxury of going into great detail on these items without writing a book. But, suffice it to say, if God removed one of the above items, our agency would become null and void; of which the final consequence would be that our choices wouldn’t matter. And, if our choices don’t matter this life becomes pointless. If our choices don’t matter, they lose power to damn us or exalt us. No agency = an eternal limbo without sorrow but also without joy. No agency = the state of constant suspense with no hope of any fulfillment. Yuck.

God has established a world where we have true agency (Abraham 3:24-28). And, He never changes the above conditions. Agency has the power to help us become like God. Preserving agency is the truest form of love God can give us. And, it is the primary reason there was a need for an infinite atonement. The atonement allows us to exercise our agency in the godly learning process without being condemned by that process. Thus, moral agency may be the highest law of heaven because it has sponsored the greatest applications of God’s love: His plan for us to gain access to His life and power, and the atonement performed by Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

So, here we are. And, purposefully, life isn’t ever fair or idyllic. We have marriages suffering. We have parent-child relationships suffering. We have sibling relationships suffering. We have friendships suffering. We even have cultural and societal relationships suffering. And, they are all suffering because of the lack of understanding of God’s plan and the conditions of Moral Agency.

Neal A. Maxwell said (The Great Plan of the Eternal God, 1984):

So vital is this framework [of God’s plan] that if one stays or strays outside it, he risks provinciality and misery. In fact, most human misery represents ignorance of or noncompliance with the plan. A cessation of such mortal suffering will not come without compliance to it [the plan]. Hence, the Lord, who has freely shared this vital knowledge with us, has urged us to teach the fundamentals of this plan “freely.” (Moses 6:58)

So, let’s look at the issues that happen when we fail to teach the fundamentals of Moral Agency and its critical purpose in God’s plan. If we superficially change even one of the conditions, all sorts of extra misery and suffering results.volunteers with hands up

First, society keeps trying to change the law defining what is right and wrong in order to remove guilt and the idea of moral consequences. But, all removing such law does is prevent people from taking the time out to see if they want to become godly or not. Changing the societal law doesn’t actually change God’s law or the very real and inescapable moral consequences (both immediate and eternal). It only keeps people from understanding why they are here on earth and deciding if they want to be like their Heavenly Father or not.

Second, a lot of religious people do more than enough instructing and informing their children on godly laws and yet fail to also inform and instruct their children about the “other side,” accurately. They apply blind generalities that canvass the real experiences of sin thinking it will prevent their children from experimenting with evil. And, they do so because they are worried their children will be more curious if they are more informed. Yet, what they accomplish is removing the power their children need to make an educated and accurate choice.  It’s difficult to make a honest choice without honest information. They are too worried (and afraid) about what their children will do rather than trusting them with all the information so they can determine the true desires of their own hearts.

These parents give the knowledge of good (in detail) and then only the knowledge of bad (in generalities and statements/threats using fear) and believe that this will keep their children from choosing the evil. However, what this well-intentioned plan does is leave children blind to their own hearts and desires until they are truly confronted with the sin. Then, when actually confronted with sin’s enticements and realities they are unprepared to fight it properly. They don’t know their own hearts and so they are more likely to succumb to such sin. If not in their youth (while at home) then possibly later when out of their parents’ purviews.

Knowledge increases the power of agency. And, relationships that are managed by the withholding of knowledge are those in which one party does not have a true testimony of the atonement, its accompanying grace, or God’s actual plan. In Alma 12:32 we read:

Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness; for on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God.

In this verse we can see that God didn’t give rules, guidelines, or commandments until AFTER expounding to Adam and Eve the fullness of the plan. I’m pretty sure God was thorough with His information. Yet, so often we give rules and commands without helping our children to understand the purpose of the rule and the full, detailed information of why breaking said rules will hinder their progress in God’s plan.

Third, Some of us are afraid of being too religiously pushy. Thus we err by eliminating proper and godly enticements and invitations to do good in order to not “impose” upon another’s free will. All the while Satan’s side has no qualms about imposing and inundating all of us with enticements and invitations to do evil. Thereby, our reluctance to invite and entice leaves our beloved ones overwhelmed by all the wrong propaganda. Now, granted, if we entice or invite in ways that stifle moral agency, such as: using fear tactics, coercion, manipulation, guilt trips, etc., then obviously we need to learn to entice and invite as God does. But then we should do it! By eliminating enticements to do good we decrease the power of an another’s agency because they have little chance of choosing the right because they are unaware of it or have forgotten it.

Fourth, some people, albeit understandably, would like to remove all the pain and suffering from the world. And, I don’t blame them. But, unfortunately (and fortunately) pain and suffering (all of it) is what makes this life and our choices matter.

Think about it. A tornado strikes. You can get mad at God for letting the tornado strike and deprive people of their homes (and possibly their lives), or you can gain peace in the fact that it generates an opportunity for Christlike service, gratitude, perseverance, sacrifice, long-suffering, etc…(all godly attributes). Take away the calamity and you take away the refining conditions it provides. As well, Christ has overcome death. Death is tragic, but it is not permanent. Such an event should arouse our relief and gratitude that God has already, in a past sense, reversed the calamity.

Or, a woman has an abusive husband. After years of verbal and physical abuse she finally gets out. Was the whole experience a total loss? No. First, because the atonement will eventually completely heal all of her mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical wounds. Second, it’s not a loss because she will understand Christ’s suffering better than most—innocent suffering. And by understanding Christ she will feel greater love for Him and have a chance to draw closer to Him and become like Him. Third, she will be able to entice others to get out of their abusive situations sooner than she did. She will be able to counsel them, comfort them, and understand their struggles. Her own experience has granted her power to become a Savior of others.

There is deep doctrine attached to all suffering. Suffering makes wrong choices wrong and also means that justice has to be paid. And, though Christ paid for all wrong choices, for those who don’t repent, they will eventually have to suffer, even as Christ did, because the ability to be hurt and to hurt others makes the hurt they caused matter; and it’s what makes it necessary for them to pay for it if they do not repent. (Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19)

Fifth, and finally, people want God to step in and stop all suffering. They want Him to interfere and remove our necessary autonomy…especially in major crimes and catastrophic suffering. Little do they realize that removing the impact of choice removes the reality of choice. God can’t condemn those who sin if He stops them from sinning and removes the impact of their choices. And, if He steps in to stop a murder then He must also step in and stop you from gossiping, committing adultery, and other sins. There is no middle ground. Either we are allowed to condemn ourselves by our actions (and access grace by our actions) or we are not. And, if we are not allowed to choose and be impacted then there is no need for an atonement. (Alma 14:10-11; Alma 60:13; Helaman 14:29; 1 Nephi 18:11; Doctrine and Covenants 136:39)

Additionally, removing the negative also removes the positive. If the impact of choice is removed or preempted, then the good we do won’t matter either. If only the good matters and not the evil then there is no true free will (because we only have one choice) and there is zero power to become godly—which, do not forget, is the whole purpose of being here on this earth under these conditions and circumstances in the first place.

The atonement of Christ did not take place to remove all suffering. It took place to pay justice for the suffering we would all experience for all the various variables (conditions of morality) that cause suffering. It took place to bring us back into the presence of God, so that we don’t have to remain out of His presence forever—if we repent. It took place to resurrect us and get us out of these fragile and corrupted mortal bodies after using them to learn to become godly, or not. The atonement took place to give us the chance to learn to become godly (which requires agency) while also ultimately allowing us to change, repent, and improve. Without the atonement there is no agency and there is no plan and this life would never have happened.

As a last note, I have to mention that many Latter-day Saints take to heart the command found in Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-29. And yet, they subconsciously and inadvertently change the word “teach” to “coerce, threaten, manipulate, guilt, shame, or force.” God commands us to “teach” not to exercise unrighteous dominion. He commands us to “persuade,” not to threaten (Doctrine and Covenants 121:39-46).

People who struggle with this tendency to change the meaning of the word “teach” to “coerce…” need to ask themselves, “What does a teacher do? How do they help their class master a topic? How does a teacher encourage application? How does a teacher determine the level of understanding students have and their ability to apply that information and understanding?” As parents, are we teachers or taskmasters? Just food for thought, here.

So, as we consider how to treat people with love, and as moral agents, we need to be certain we maintain the conditions of agency (i.e. God’s love) (as listed above). As well, a study of Christ’s ministry and His treatment of people in the scriptures will reveal many principles and applications for “how” to apply our knowledge of true Moral Agency. If we are prayerful about our scripture study and want to know how to treat others as moral agents and invite and entice them to come unto Christ, then we will find guidance in abundance.

BT